All the King's Horses... ?

February 22, 2015:

Pepper, Dana, and Jim try to put together a complex puzzle…

Pepper's Office, Stark Tower, NYC

Characters

NPCs: Rex, JARVIS

Mentions:

Mood Music: [https://youtu.be/N_J-hmyAS6c "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock And Roll Band)"]


Fade In…

I'm just a wandering on the face of this earth, meeting so many people who are trying to be free… and while I'm travelling I hear so many words, Language barrier's broken now we've found the key…

It's been a few days since the rather improvised yet dramatically powerful emergency crash treatment of Jim Reha from a nearly catastrophic chest wound. While he was recovering in the care of Rain and a couple of others, he'd dropped an email to his bosses letting them know that he'd be moving a bit slow for the next couple of weeks, but he should be in to work within the next day or so.

This afternoon he's walking into the office of Pepper Potts, still moving slowly, still bandaged a bit (though by this point with the insanely good care he's been getting it's a formality more than a necessity) and is sporting a pair of vintage orange headphones attached to… ye gods, is that a Sony Walkman?

Nope, false alarm, it's some cheap knockoff, but still… an actual *cassette tape player*?

The volume is cranked up a bit, and strains of the Moody Blues can be heard emanating from the earphones as he approaches the office, giving a smile and a double 'thumb's up' to the assistant at the desk.

Well… That's a bit of a change.

Jim's usually so… uptight… no… Professional… about work?

***

It just so happens that with the communications problems ongoing, Pepper has surprisingly LESS to do each day. So, in the spirit of slacking off for that last part of the day, Pepper invited Rune over. It's a multiple reason visit — she's hoping the photographer can help her puzzle back together the broken teapots that can salvaged enough to at least be display pieces, but also to catch up with her friend as well as to ask (quietly) if the little fae that used to inhabit the Tower are somehow still here.

***

Dana stands near the table displaying the broken clutter of former crockery, a considering look on her face. To some degree, it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle — one of the few 'board games' she actually enjoys, because focusing on the piece perforce blocks out many Shades and Shadows. To another, though… she can't help but wonder if there's a mending spell somewhere that might help. On the other hand… her witchcraft spell-casting isn't really her strong suit. She can do it, but… *shrug*. And some of the particles are probably atomized, by now, anyway.

So, instead, she starts sorting seemingly random bits — all the ones that were touched by the witch magic from the special set Pepper had. That one is a real shame to have lost. She might need to speak to her mother about that.

"I haven't seen many of them," she says in response to the question. "They weren't comfortable inside to being with. And with the number of shades left hanging around here, they'll be slow to return." A beat. "It's the sluagh I'm more concerned about…" Because they love places where Death has had a field day.

There's soft chuff from Rex, who's lounging in front of a couch, when Jim approaches — just loud enough to alert Dana to the visitor. She pauses and glances toward the door.

***

The portly fellow from QA wanders in, and pushes his right headphone up a bit so he can properly talk to Pepper and… oh, hey, Rune.. and Rex…

"Sluagh? Here? Where?"

While Jim's not fully read - up on Fae mythology and the different sorts of them, that one in particular strikes a chord because of research he'd been doing on the mess with the leys and the power grids. Because they'd be the kinds of things sitting there sucking on grimness like sweet tea in a hot Southern summer.

"Hey Pepper, Dana. I'm… not interrupting anything, am I? I can come back if you need me to?"

***

Pepper Potts sighs faintly and nods at Dana's assessment of the Fae that used to be here. "Well, I hope they're all okay." She's got one or two teapots still intact, and thankfully most of her teas, but still. When Rex chuffs, she turns toward the door almost as quickly as Dana does, then smiles when she sees Jim. "No, not interrupting at all. Please, come in. You can help us try to salvage a teapot or two." She quickly stands up from the chair she'd been sitting in, clearly expecting the recently injured (and magically healed) man to sit his butt down and not overexert himself.

***

Dana smiles at the unusually upbeat greeting from the man. As she scans his features, it occurs to her that the mystical aspect that typically drapes him has faded some — like its more distant than normal. Dormant. "I haven't seen anything obvious," she replies to his initial query. "But between the active cold," which she totally blames on Maeve, "and the recent battle scars, I'm just keeping a wary eye open."

***

Jim was going to offer some more guesses as to the Fae, but shrugs and then takes the seat that's been vacated for him with little hesitation. Being healed of the major stuff doesn't change the fact that he's still sore from the experience, and once again, this is not the sort of thing he'd recommend for anyone.

"Did you get the corner pieces pulled off to the side yet?"

Okay, that's bad puzzle humor, but he's clearly put together some of his own in the past as he watches over the items, blinking a few times then closing his eyes, trying to 'piece' the thing together in his head. No, honestly, he's not sleeping. If he was, he'd be snoring for sure.

"Dunno what it is about this recent cold snap, but it's in my bones and it's kind of scary. I don't get a chill like that very often?"

He opens his eyes again and points at three clumps of pieces. "Those aren't all from the same piece. The designs are close but…"

Puzzle - Fu, or just the experienced eye of someone who's spent years putting things together in the workplace for space and efficiency? Observer to be the judge.

***

Pepper Potts picks a different chair to settle into. "You're right. It was three different tea sets. And to make things even more fun, there are broken cups mixed in here too." As if to illustrate, she picks part of a cup handle out of one group of pieces. "Normally I'd just send the pieces to be cast into new ceramic, but each of these had a special significance to me." There's the one that Dana pointed out as having been lightly enchanted, there's the one that was her first ever handmade teapot, and there's the vintage one she'd bought at Dana's mom's antique shop. At least that last one is distinctive looking.

***

Dana chuckles at Jim's jest, but doesn't comment on it. Instead, her smile twists wryly at the mention of the cold. "Winter is having fun, this year," she says dryly, only the faintest emphasis on 'winter', letting them take it as they will.

She shakes her head slightly as she pulls out another piece or two. "If Mom were here, I'd suggest a mending spell," she says. "But, lacking that, I'm thinking: Mosaic. How do you feel about mosaics, Pepper?"

***

"How is JARVIS doing, by the way?"

Okay, the ceramics are already broken, so it's okay for Jim to charge in like a bull conversationally and make a mess, right? It's not that he's trying to stir up bad things, but… normally by this point the local AI would have offered an insightful mapping protocol on how to place all the pieces for proper reconstruction, along with various suggested means of adhesion. And sentiment is important in this day and age of cut and paste technology. Because it is what defines a human being from some random script.

He glances over at Dana then squints a bit at the particular emphasis pattern. He was going to resist making some sort of comment but the next words kind of goad him.

"If you don't mind my asking, who's your mother? I'm not super-dialed in on the will - workers around town, but I know a few?"

As the discussion goes to Mosaic, Jim shakes his head.

"If it gets really bad and we really get stumped we can try waking the partner up. First time I've ever gotten the impression that it's sleeping, though. How long was it awake?" That's offered over to Pepper… and a few more questions bubble up to be asked in the goodness of time…

***

Pepper Potts is delicately picking through the jumbled mess looking for bits of the antique British teapot, as it was mostly white and the pieces are distinctive. Of course, it was also more delicate, so it broke into proportionally smaller pieces. "Mosaics are hit or miss for me. Something Minoan could never be wrong, but I've seen so many attempts that were just … wrong." She then offers Jim a smile. "JARVIS is still not back to fully one hundred percent, and that last bit he's lacking has to wait for Tony." She lets Dana answer the question about her mom, but then offers a bit softly, "Corvinus said something about one hundred seventy two hours, so… quite a while. And he was starting to suffer from it, stuttering and saying some pretty random things. Even for him."

***

Dana glances to Jim, at his question. She considers for a moment, and then smiles. "Shannon Maddox," she says. The Maddox line is a respected Witchblood line among the Homo Magi, but nowhere near the level of, say, the Zatara Mageblood line. Shannon can hold her own, and Dana doubts either Jim or Corvinus are likely to go after her, in any case. It's a greater concern that the Sidhe might go after the elder witch and, frankly, they already know who and where she is. So, it's not really a State secret.

***

"A hundred and seventy - two? Awake. Aware? Oh…" Jim sort of boggles at that for a bit as he lets that sink in. Damnit, Corv. Don't DO that again.

"Well, hopefully Mister Stark can get JARVIS back to fighting trim. It's just not the same around here without him." It really isn't. Though whether Jim is referring to Mister Stark, JARVIS, or both is a bit unclear.

"Did you ever figure out why they were going after you, Pepper?"

No one has told him yet, apparently, that the hit was actually aimed at the functionary from QA, and not the CEO of Stark Industries.

He nods a bit at Dana's answer, though the name does get a bit of a puzzled look before a shrug and the clear mental filing process. Yeah. Jim doesn't go hunting down magi on whims. Even as a relatively mundane sort, he knows that 'magic follows need' and 'threefold return is a bitch'.

"Did you let her know about the… oh, right, we didn't get a chance to really… gah."

***

Pepper Potts blinks at Jim, then carefully sets the piece of porcelain in her hand back on the table. "Uh, Jim, about that." She glances at Dana before putting a hand on the man's shoulder lightly. "We found out later that that group was after you, not me…. wait, let who know about what?"

***

It's actually news to Dana, too. She winces faintly. As for the rest of Jim's babbling… Yeah. Colour her clueless. "Let who know about what?" she says at pretty much the same time as Pepper. Then, she flashes the redhead a grin and laughs momentarily. Her expression sobers fairly quickly, however, and she returns her attention to the more serious matter of the attack.

***

The salt and pepper'd fellow pales a bit and his first reaction is to glance out the window for any possible sniper spots before realizing that he's on top of arguably one of the most secure skyscrapers in the Big Apple, even if it did get a bit trashed a few weeks back. He forces himself to calm down, take a few deep breaths.

"But… why? I'm… not someone important, about the only thing I had going on was the whole 'research into the…' oh."

He pauses and glances to Dana.

"Basically, with the help of a couple of others we were able to figure out that the ley lines and the power grid in Metropolis was pretty darn close to identical, if you can imagine that. The grids and lines in New York and Gotham are a bit messier, but it looks like someone was trying to use some sort of way to maybe convert standard power to magic power? It's all guesswork, though, and I hit a really bad dead - end…" He trails off and face-palms. "Bad wording. The research hit a standstill, I wasn't making any ground… so why would they go after me? Whoever 'they' are?"

***

Pepper Potts nods slowly. "I think that's why they targeted you, Jim. But I want you to stay here now, okay? If there's anything else to find or work on, you can do it from here." Hm. Maybe once Corvinus wakes up he can help with trying to get JARVIS back up to speed… probably not. Tony doesn't like other people playing with 'his' stuff.

***

Dana's eyes narrow some as Jim speaks. "Pepper's right. There's someone out there targeting metas, magi, and mutants. Hydra, apparently, is looking to establish a New World Order using the occult. From what I understand, they're behind the ley line hijackings." Among many, many other things. "I don't have a lot more information, though." She glances to Pepper. "I've been tracking down as many shifts as I can, but it's slow going." Particularly with Maeve trying to make the most of the last month-and-a-bit before the Equinox. It's been a very frustrating winter for the Seer.

***

"I'll need to get out sometimes, I get cabin fever just like anyone else." Jim nods grimly, though. That just makes sense.

"There will be more warning signs before whatever they've got cooking comes through. A lot was lost during the Tri-City attacks, so that has to be regained just to get it back to 'status quo', much less any 'special projects'. Though the whole thing with Atlantis…that's probably helping feed the situation faster."

"I'm going to get you some copies of the maps and charts I've been using. I fumble around in the dark with them, but they might give you a few more pointers and illumination that I'm just not getting because I'm not a magical sort?"

That, and well, getting the charts into other hands and eyes helps spread the information so it can't be sniped out of existence.

"Say. Totally different topic and a bit more upbeat… Pepper… even though JARVIS isn't up and running we do have the 3 - D modelers working, right, down in Design? What if we took a whole bunch of pictures of these pieces and fed them in manually, would that work?"

It'd probably be 'cheating' but it would get the work done in maybe weeks rather than years, though…

***

Pepper Potts thinks about that briefly, then nods. "They should be. They're independent machines, just with networked interfaces that allowed JARVIS to control them a lot faster than a human would…. wait. You're talking about these teapot shards?" She shakes her head. "Sorry, I thought you were still talking about the ley lines. I suppose we could, but honestly without JARVIS helping with the initial imaging, it would take just as long as sitting here sorting through the pieces."

***

"I'd love to see the charts," Dana agrees. She's been trying to map things using her innate senses, but it can get confusing for her, especially when she slips realities. That's annoying. "Compare them to what I've already got." And what Wassea's been able to show her.

As for the teapots… She looks at the pile of shards and pulls out a few more of the magically inclined pieces. That set is easiest for her to find, really. They 'glow'.

***

Serendipity sometimes follows blind alleys and mugs the unsuspecting. This is one of those circumstances.

"That… that's genius, Pepper! I hadn't even THOUGHT of that as an option. We're looking at a three, possibly four dimensional problem with two dimensional charts that can't show depth very well. I'll take the charts and maps down and feed them through. We can then get all the other views, too, which will make it easier to get a composite picture and weed out the extraneous stuff. And if we apply that to Gotham and New York, then we can see even more common threads and…"

Jim sits up a bit straighter, which causes him to wince as the soreness reminds him that isn't quite a good idea yet.

"And then, Dana, if you can see things that I missed… well, hell, we've got this thing in the bag. Just do me a favor and keep the composite charts close and guarded, okay? If there's folks out there that are looking for their own 'missing piece'… it might give them the information they need."

With the enchanted set being pulled out, and the English china set… it suddenly becomes a lot easier to winnow the remaining pieces…

***

It takes a moment for Pepper to realize what Jim got so excited about, then ohs and possibly looks a bit sheepish. "I'm glad that my misinterpretation turned out to be helpful." She then concentrates on picking out the bits of English china, looking a bit saddened when she finds the green maker's stamp from the underside of the teapot itself.

The sorting likely goes peacefully for a while before Pepper gets up to order food and fix a fresh pot of tea in one of the teapots that survived (mostly) unscathed. "Any preferences for dinner?"

***

Dana nods to Jim, her ears rising at both his idea and his enthusiasm. A wry grin touches her lips. "See, that's the problem with magic users," she says lightly. "We never think of the technological solutions." Because, really… MAGIC! Her head cants as she considers. "I can," she adds slowly, "create a temporary construct to show you the dimensionality I usually navigate. It'll work as long as I'm around to power it. Otherwise, it'll likely collapse into so much dust." Artificing is as much a challenge for her as other forms of witchery. Illusions, though… those she's got down.

Her head cants again at Pepper's suggestion. "Actually," she admits, "Mom's expecting me. I'm afraid I can't stay." Is it that late already… Oy.

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