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Avenger Assembled

The Break-In

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Start Date: February 1st, 2009

News Report on a shocking break-in at FCU

Avenger prowled his way through the darkened Beaumont Building, bypassing the security cameras and locked doors through natural cunning and deftly applied use of his supernatural abilities. Locked doors were no barrier when you could pass underneath them as easily as a wisp of smoke, while security cameras were nothing before someone with the speed, patience, and stealth of death itself. Inside, Jack was deeply tense as he made his way down towards the secured archives in the basement. Surely his informants were wrong. Surely the rumors in the community about what, and who, the Liberty League had kept in their vaults were false!

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It was quiet outside as Avenger made his way down to the Beaumont archives in the library basement, the cold February weather keeping the student body inside this late at night. The police have had plenty of time to come and go, leaving behind a crime scene secured against almost any kind of intruder. Having crept his way past security cameras and locked doors, his little sojourn into breaking and entering almost took a very unfortunate turn. A moment before he could lay hands on the outer door of the archive itself, Avenger jerked his gloved hand away from the door handle as if struck. "Good one, Beaumont." Or whoever. Nice ward. Must have been why they sent mundanes. He was going to need someone else to open that door.

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Dark Star was still getting used to the city, where things were. He hadn’t done too much of significance since his public arrival. His investigation skills, among other things, needed some work and refinement. He started reading the papers, using his contacts and seeing if he couldn’t help by using his abilities. Who knows what he would notice or could contribute? He needed practice and there were wrongs to be righted.

Which was why he was flying towards the building where the mysterious crime had occurred. He had no need of doors and walls were no concern to him. He didn’t want to be overly obvious however so simply projected some of his innate darkness out around him as he slowly drifted down through the ceiling. He moved slowly, carefully noting the gravity fluctuations produced by buildings to avoid coming close anyone without giving himself a heads up.

He slid through to the basement floor and passed directly into the vault to have a look.

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Jos Terhune enjoyed his life. He'd been in Freedom City for a while, his business had been running for about a couple of months and was bringing in steady income (both monetary and less tangible sorts), and he'd found a few good restaurants in the area. After a hard day's work (though that was not to say an honest days work), he allowed himself to relax and catch up on reading the papers.

And then he almost choked.

"Artifacts stolen?" He pulled the paper closer to him, as if doing so would make it reveal more information. "Grah, damnable American media, never focusing on the important things: what was stolen?!"

And how can I make them mine?

Terhune rose from his chair and rummaged through one of his desks, at last bringing forth a little black book, the one which held certain phone numbers. He began to make some calls to certain people (arranging to meet those who would not tlk over the phone), people who knew all about robberies and thefts in the city, and people who know about antiques and artifacts. Some of them weren't, strictly speaking, "people."

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There is something unsettling about the vault to Dark Star's gravitic senses, possibly because some of the items he's almost sure are there don't seem to have any gravitic presence at all! No normal object should be able to do that, naturally, thus leaving open some serious questions about the true nature of what's in those books lined up on the long shelves along each wall, or what's in a few of the display cases and sealed boxes placed in front of the shelves. The room isn't all bizarre artifacts, though; there are plenty of mundane pins, flags, and posters from the old Liberty League, mementos of a nearly forgotten age of heroes. For Dark Star's purposes at present, the most important item in the room are the tipped-over shelf along the floor, the broken pieces scattered beneath it, and the signs of rough handling in the area.

---

As it happens, it's not that hard for an antique dealer to get some information on the collection that Fletcher Beaumont I donated to Freedom City University back in 1973. There was something of a to-do about it in the antiques community at the time; the Liberty League collection was known to be very valuable, even priceless, and quite a few dealers back in the day would have given their left eye for artifacts such as Freedom Eagle's earliest flight harness, Schlasbringer's gun, books from Envoy's native Utopia, die Walkure's stuffed flying horse, a crown Johnny Rocket brought back from Speed World, and the dagger used in the ritual that created Nacht-Krieger.

As for what was actually stolen, the police are actually keeping that under fairly close watch. He can confirm that the dagger was among the items stolen; it's actually listed as a "watch" item for antique dealers to be on the lookout for if someone tries to sell it to them. He's pretty sure the dagger was not the only thing stolen, though, and that whatever else was stolen isn't being mentioned even in dispatches to the antiques community.

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Terhune cursed under his breath, "Great, der Dolch von Schatten-Herz* has been taken. If I'm lucky, it's just some Shadow agents trying to strengthen Nacht-Krieger, or create another agent like him. If I'm not, it's some petty thief who got wind of it, and is planning to give himself shadow powers so he can engage in a crime spree. Before I've had a chance to ward my shoppe against insubstantial robbers."

'Course, that would be incredibly useful for me to have.

Terhune sat down again and drummed his fingers on the desk. "If I knew what the second stolen item was, though, it would give me a better idea of what's going on. Which means going to FCU. Ideally, when no one else is around, so I can do some snooping of my own."

Terhune packed a messenger bag with a change of clothes (a cheap jogging suit & running shoes), along with a few other odds & ends (notepad, pencils & pens, small pocket flashlight, some maps of FCU he printed off their website) and set out, traveling to the university via taxi.

Though I'm a lot more comfortable in my other form, it's still best if anyone who sees me sees Jos Terhune doing the investigating, not Hell's Artisan.

* "the Dagger of the Shadow-Heart" or "Shadow-Heart Dagger"

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Elena read the article with a mixture of disgust and concern. This isn't a typical burglary. Professional or amateur, thieves don't steal what they can't sell, and I can't imagine a fence stupid enough to think he could move these items. If we're lucky, that means a private collector. If we're not, then someone's playing with fire. And I'm not sure which would be worse - a fool toying with powers beyond his understanding, or a monster who knows exactly what she's wrought upon us.

When she remembered the centerpiece of Beaumont's collection, she almost choked on her coffee. Oh no. Not the dagger. I can't let them create another abomination like that psychopathic scumbag Meinhoff. The morphic molecules of her costume expanded out from under her shirt, wrapping her in a second skin of gleaming red and gold as The Prince flew out of her modern palace, ready to do battle once more.

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It took only a passing thought for The Scarab to hide herself from the eyes and minds of what few students and faculty still prowled the university grounds as she flew by. She came to rest on top of the dining hall nearest to the library where the break-in occurred. Gotta love this flat-roof architecture that took the academic world by storm 30 years ago. Makes it so much easier to hide in the middle, where gawkers below can't see you. She dropped her cloak, directing her power away from the eyes of others and toward her own, pushing them past the boundaries of her body and into the library. Let's see what there is to see...

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Dark Star surveys the vault's contents with interest. At first, he slowly surveys the area, just to get a good idea of where everything has fallen before moving on to determine what is missing. He idly noted his mistakes as worked. Doing a bit more legwork would have been rather helpful. Ah well. Live and learn, he thought to himself. However, he couldn't help but smile as he gazed up objects from his childhood heroes.

He paused in his inspection at the gravimetric oddity. Interesting..., he though. He let his more normal vision look over the oddities, ignoring his own created darkness.

He only had a moment or two of looking at them when he paused and tilted his head to one side. Hmm, company... he mused silently. He let his own senses extend outward as he slid into the floor under the vault, to make doubly sure his darkness enshrouded form stayed hidden.

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Terhune's cab passed by the Hunter Museum of Natural History as it made its way to campus. He looked out at it, longingly, then reminded himself of why he was here this night. The cab pulled as close to the Beaumont Building as allowed, and when Terhune got out he handed the driver one of his own business cards along with the fare (and a measely tip).

Terhune was completely oblivious to any super-activity in the area.

"Now, how does the saying go? 'Let's see what's behind Door Number 1'" Terhune tried the main door to the building.

Wanna break, wanna smash, wanna... no, no, there are other times and better places for that.

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The Scarab's scan revealed a building far more crowded than it looked, a place practically overrun with activity of one sort or another. There were at least two individuals down in the basement vault; one shadowy creature of pure darkness that vanished inside the floor of the most secure vault the moment Scarab's psychic "eye" passed overhead, leaving behind traces just barely discernible through the material of the floor. Its still there, and it hasn't gone far. In a corridor outside the vault, there was another figure moving quickly through the darkness below, a half-familiar outline that ironically got all the more familiar when the figure vanished from Scarab's psychic eye entirely. Scarab had met some people who can do that particular trick, but only one recently.

Outside, an innocent-seeming fellow was just coming in the main door, where Jos Terhune has managed to get inside the front foyer of the library. It's closed this late, naturally, but the University doesn't lock out its students out late at night in cold weather. The inner doors are locked, the foyer, information desk, and shelves inside just visible in the gloom. There's a glassed-over display board showing various library events, some of them canceled after the break-in, and a security phone for calling campus security.

Where Scarab and Jos Terhune had enjoyed good fortune, Dark Star and Avenger were both running into difficulties. Dark Star's evasion in the floor got him away from that visual regard he'd just been conscious of, but unfortunately his investigation in the darkened vault has run into some difficulties. His normal vision wouldn't get him very far inside the vault, as the staff and police in leaving had turned off all the lights that night. As for Avenger, his sudden leap into the ducts overhead had neatly avoided the Scarab's searching eye (and won't he feel dumb when he realizes who that is?) but his hasty maneuver left him with a very wrong idea about who his enemy was. Whoever had been watching him was obviously right there in the vault!

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The Scarab's eyes widened at the sight of the living shadow. He won't like this. But I don't have much of a choice. She let her consciousness snap back inside her mortal shell, and sought out what was hopefully a like mind.

"Avenger, this is The Scarab, knocking at the door to your mind. Is that you in the Beaumont Building? Because if so, you have company, of the super variety. An incorporeal entity. Looks like a shadow. The Nacht-Krieger, or someone like him. As soon as I 'looked,' it phased through the vault floor. And what looks like a professor coming in to work late is about to become a bystander at best, a hostage or casualty at worst. Avenger, this is bad. Beaumont had half a dozen pieces in his collection I can recall of the top of my head that are potentially a disaster-in-a-can in the wrong hands, chief among them being the ceremonial dagger that created Nacht-Krieger in the first place!"

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Well, so far, so good, but now what? I know squat about lockpicking, so I can't open the doors that way, and as much as I'd like to change and bash the doors in I don't want to risk that, at least not yet. Especially not with those cameras around.

Terhune tried the inner doors again, then exited the foyer, and began to walk around the building, seeing if there was some other way in.

Come to think of it, there are probably others around looking into this. Meddling kids and whatnot. Perhaps I can get them to help me....

"Oh," Terhune said aloud, "I do hope I can get into the building! After I came all the way from oversea to appraise some of their new acquisitions... and then this robbery occurs! How dreadful!"

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"Not without tripping the alarms. I suppose I can find campus security and pluck the codes out of their heads. That will take a minute. Can you keep the shadow occupied while I make sure the bystander doesn't get himself killed?"

The Scarab flies off the roof and down to the perimeter of the Beaumont Building.

Terhune tried the inner doors again, then exited the foyer, and began to walk around the building, seeing if there was some other way in.

"Oh," Terhune said aloud, "I do hope I can get into the building! After I came all the way from oversea to appraise some of their new acquisitions... and then this robbery occurs! How dreadful!"

She lands next to Terhune. "I'm afraid your appraisal will have to wait. It's not worth getting hurt over, and there's a situation inside. And come to think of it, shouldn't this sort of thing take place earlier in the day, during business hours?"

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Dark Star waited patiently for several long moments. The feeling of being observed had gone but that didn't mean whoever it was wasn't still around... He was playing it safe, or trying to. He'd made enough mistakes already. He'd give it a moment and then start looking around.

He really needed to plan ahead for these things better...

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"Oh!" Terhune blurts out as Scarab lands before him. "I was not sure that would actually work, and especially not so soon! I... hrm, you look a bit familiar... are you one of those 'legacies'?"

Keep cool, keep cool.

The "professor" extended his hand, "Ah, forgive me, my name is Terhune, Jos Terhune. Antiques appraiser, specializing in Dutch and French items. As I said, I was recently called over to appraise some recent acquisitions, some 17th century French items which may be connected to the Beaumont family. The head of the special collections research center had arranged this somewhat clandestine meeting because she wanted to be absolutely certain of the authenticity of the pieces before making any announcements. I just heard of the robbery, though, so I suppose our meeting is postponed."

"Wait - you said there was a situation inside? What sort? Did the thieves return?"

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"Keeping an eye out. He is aware of me. I will enter and speak with him." It took Scarab a minute or two to realize what was odd; Avenger's voice was false. It was the oddest thing, like someone consciously trying to think in a French accent. The words themselves were real, but the tone of voice, akin to Avenger's own gruff, creepy monotone, obviously came unnaturally to him.

Dark Star is definitely aware that there are other people out there, though that terrible regard on him has passed. As far as he can tell, he has at least the privacy of the room to himself, the hum of the nearby airvent his only companion. As for Jos and Scarab, so far no one has yet laid eyes on them: it's cold outside, and no one wants to spend much time at the library after hours these days.

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"Oh!" Terhune blurts out as Scarab lands before him. "I was not sure that would actually work, and especially not so soon! I... hrm, you look a bit familiar... are you one of those 'legacies'?"

"No, I've merely returned after a long absence."

The "professor" extended his hand, "Ah, forgive me, my name is Terhune, Jos Terhune. Antiques appraiser, specializing in Dutch and French items.

The Scarab took his hand and shook it.

"I'm afraid I don't have that information. The situation is developing as we speak. We have an agent inside assessing the situation, but right now, we can't guarantee your safety. It's possible that the objects you came to appraise were among those stolen. I can't confirm that yet. But I can confirm that whichever official you were supposed to meet with is not on-site. I'd prefer it if you didn't contact them just yet. We don't want to involve the non-powered authorities until we've assessed the threat. No sense endangering them by sending them into a situation they're not equipped to handle. For now, we have the scene contained, and we'd like to keep it that way."

"Please stay in the lobby for now. I'll be right back."

The Scarab flew up to the top of the Beaumont Building, crouched down, and once again concentrated on extending the reach of her awareness beyond its grasp. Campus security must know the alarm codes. And what they know, I know...

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It was late and the guards were tired, Scarab had no particular trouble gathering up the information he needed. Security down below wasn't particularly high right now, with many of the precautions withdrawn in the wake of the break-in. The security codes would get them past the keypad leading down to the basement; the combination would turn off the security system active on the floor below. The hardest part, without the help of something more mechanical, is going to be the locked doors that stand in the way.

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Excellent, thought The Scarab. Just as weak-willed as I hoped they were. Not that it's a good thing in the long run for security to be so lax, but it suits my purposes for the moment.

She turned her attention back toward her dark-clad associate. "Avenger, I've got the layout of the building and the alarm codes. Luckily, most of the security systems have been brought off-line since the original break-in. I'm coming in."

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"I'm afraid I don't have that information. The situation is developing as we speak. We have an agent inside assessing the situation, but right now, we can't guarantee your safety. It's possible that the objects you came to appraise were among those stolen. I can't confirm that yet. But I can confirm that whichever official you were supposed to meet with is not on-site. I'd prefer it if you didn't contact them just yet. We don't want to involve the non-powered authorities until we've assessed the threat. No sense endangering them by sending them into a situation they're not equipped to handle. For now, we have the scene contained, and we'd like to keep it that way."

"Please stay in the lobby for now. I'll be right back."

"Oh, yes, of course! Thank you, sir!" he calls back as he trots off.

Wait, was that a woman? Sure wasn't dressed like most of the super-chicks I've seen.

Terhune stopped about halfway back to the foyer/lobby. Wait, now what? There are capes inside... but also a fair deal of art treasures. Not many, and not ones I could sell anywhere in this quarter of the country... but they're there nonetheless. And besides, I really want to know exactly what was taken.

Terhune looked around for some spot where he could change, finally settling on a spot behind two dumpsters next to a building across the street. Checking to make sure he wasn't being watched, he quickly removed his outfit, stripping down to his underwear, stored all his clothes in his bag (along with his other set of clothes), then tucked the bag behind the dumpsters in the hopes no one would find it. "Hope these things don't get too much of a stink form all this trash."

Checking again to make sure no one was around to see, Terhune stepped out from behind the dumpsters, then concentrated a moment

Change! Change, O mortal form!

Release the might from fleshy mire!

Boil the blood in heart of fire!

Gone! Gone! -- the mortal form --

Rise, the Demon Belphegor!!

and was transmogrified into his dark red, scaled, horned, fanged, bat-winged, taloned demonic form.

"Alright," he said in his resonant bass voice, "let's see if what I saw on that documentary could actually work for me."

Belphegor concentrated a moment, then began to laugh as his body dissolved into a thundercloud of black smoke. The smoke darted across the street to the Beaumont Building and poked at the windows, seeking entrance. Eerily it seemed to wobble a bit as it moved.

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From his position by a life-size statue of the Centurion carved entirely out of meteoric iron, Avenger took note of the creature he shared the room with. Barely visible in the darkness, but definitely there. It was time to speak. The voice came from above Dark Star, echoing eerily through the darkened vault with an especial horror since all his senses told him no one was there! "I know you're there. Better if you come out. Prefer not to fight in the art treasures." Avenger sounded grim, forceful, but just a little tired.

As for Belphegor, entering the library via mist and smoke turned out to be a stone groove! At this stage of the game, at least, there are no mystical barriers at all between where he wants to go and where he is now. There are even signs on the walls that helpfully steer him towards "special collections" down in the basement, though there are some locked doors there that might be problematic. If there are mystical wards in the place, they're likely to be there on the path downstairs.

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The Scarab flew back down to the lobby of the Beaumont Building, but the accented man was nowhere to be found. Hmmm. Maybe I scared him off. Just as well. One less factor in the equation to worry about. He can come back another time. She flew directly to the alarm control panel, then down to the vault. She punched the keys in the alarm panel by looking at them. I must admit, being a telekinetic certainly is convenient. I almost don't have to wear gloves at all. Looking through the windows, she used her mental powers to open every door in her path from the inside. Hold on just a little longer, Avenger. I'm almost there. No more heroes blood on your hands, Meinhoff. Gods help me, I just may kill tonight, if that's what it takes to stop you...

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Dark Star let his senses looks around the area, this time for the distinct contours of a light switch. Relying on his gravitc senses became second nature but sometimes nothing beat a good old-fashion look-see. A simple push with his abilities, telekinesis would flick the switch on.

He heard the voice from around him and raised an eyebrow, or would have if he actually had any features in this form, in curiosity. If this was a horrow movie, the main character would be freaked out. Luckily for him, Dark Star didn't frighten easily. He looked around but saw no one .

"I am 'out'. I simply look like different. Now, just looking for the light here... And I have no desire to fight at all, unless there is just cause. Perhaps a little quid-pro-quo?" Finding the switch and turning it on would help matters... Ah, finally, here we are. "Think this is the lights..."

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