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The Same Thing We Do Every Night ... [IC]


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It was a rare chance for Avenger to get out rather than be stuck with the normal vampire politics that seemed to dominate his night to night unlife. Even then it was not entirely disconnected, one of his holdings in the depressed Greenbank neighborhood had been robbed, along with several other businesses in the area over the last week.

So he swung through the area hoping to turn up something concrete on the odd series of robberies. He was about to give up and head back to the fens to beat some pimps and dealers senseless when he noticed an odd group of men get out of an unmarked van just down the street. Their coveralls were all matching deep purple and each wore a long beaked mask and some kind of hood to disguise thier features as they settled into trying to crack the lock on a nearby warehouse. They weren't being even a little subtle with it either very brazen even for Greenbank.

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Not a terribly subtle fighter himself when the situation didn't call for it, Avenger threw himself into his work. He appeared amongst the thugs, the better to spread terror among them, and laughed malevolently. "HA HA HA!" When they'd had a chance to scream, he moved among them like a lion among sheep, laying about him with fist and kick as he hurled them aside and battered them into submission.

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The thugs collapse with a satisfying series of thuds as Avenger lays into them. However it lookes as if they managed to get the door of the warehouse open before he set into them. He can see a well lit stair leading down and terminating in another door, deffinately not the norm for a warehouse. What exactly had these thugs sumbled upon in their clumsy robbery attempt? The mystery was very engaging even if a bit beyond Avenger normal antics.

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Avenger crept stealthily down into the mysterious corridor below, keeping his finely attuned senses at a heightened state of awareness to uncover the mysteries that lay below. Who knew what lay below? He certainly didn't, but there was only one way to find out! Visions of a massive drug bust, a secret supervillain's lair, and so many other things danced in his head like so many sugar plum fairies; the acclaim of his friends and Taylor's gratitude turning cheerfully through his mind. Tonight was gong to be a good night.

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Visions of his upcomeing acclaim danceing through his head Jack stealthly approached the reinforced door at the base of the mysterious stair. This was deffinately not a normal warehouse his door looked like it could take a direct hit from an ati tank round and be no worse for wear. There was a small panel next to the door with a keypad and a small green and red LED above the pad. It looked relitively complex but Avenger was in luck the last person to pass this way had dirty fingers and left clear marks on the 4 8 3 and 1 buttons.

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This detecting thing isn't so tough, thought Avenger cheerfully as he pressed the buttons on the keypad. I'm going to use the reward money to buy Taylor something nice. Maybe that red thing I saw at the store the other day, the one that shows off her neck... They hadn't yet gone quite that far since she'd found out his true nature, but Jack was willing to bet he'd be able to get his way with his lovely sweetheart before too much time passed.

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The first combonation Avenger tried caused the green LED to light up and blink as a crack his of decomppressing air signalled the door releasing. It swung open on its own and a long hallway presented itself to Avenger the light panels overhead clicking on one by one down its length the smooth brushed steel walls only interupted by sliding doors like something out of star trek every fifteen to twenty feet. There was a camera pointed directly at the door but Avneger knew that was not something he had to worry about, the lack of guards just further proved luck was on his side tonight.

As if to hammer that point home as Avenger crept down the hall one of the doors ten or so feet in front of him slid open and an attractive young lady in some kind of futuristic labcoat ensemble with silver miniskirt stepped out and began walking quickly down the hall away from him clipboard in hand.

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Avenger sneakily crept after the lovely lady scientist, passing just a few inches behind her with every step he took. He enjoyed the view as much as he enjoyed himself, thinking pleasant thoughts about the mystery he was uncovering. Keeping his eyes open wide, he kept a close eye out on the fancy corridors as he went, enjoying the secretive thrill of stealth and the joy of not casting a single reflection in any of these shiny surfaces. He was a king, baby.

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Reaching the end of the hall a large window revealed some kind of high tech workshop with perhaps dozens of workers busily going about their tasks assembling and modifying high tech weapons of some sort it was quite the sight. The pretty lady scientist stepped up to the door and quickly keyed in a code the door sliding almost silently open. She steps quickly through and the door begins to slide shut as the platform she stands upon begins a gentle descent tot he factory floor. He may be able to get onto the platform but would surely be exposed if he did so.

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Exposure? Avenger? Pshaw! With a single leap and bound, he deftly slipped through to join the pretty lady on the platform. "Don't turn around." It was better if they knew he was coming; the better to strike fear into their miserable ranks. If they were looking for him, in his experience, odds were pretty good that they wouldn't be able to find him. Fear is the mindkiller. "Who are you?"

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There was a brief flash of light, and Avenger was stunned for a moment his mind growing foggy. Woman infront of him leaned back into him, "ooooh, you know what that voice does to me." She said in a sultry tone as she rested her head on his shoulder, "Mrs. Taylor Farretti, I know I can't get over saying it either." She said with a smile as Taylor turned poping a strawberry into his mouth. The kitchen was in disarray from the move still but things were settling out pretty well over all.


Dark Star was in orbit havign just completed a satalite repair for the SCC whent he gravtic wave reached him. It was a clear transmission, no sound but the message came through none the less. Avenger in some kind of high tech facility stepping through a door into a odd device, its purpose was a mystery, however the countdown displaying on the side of the device left little doubt however that time was short and his teammate was in danger. It was a simple matter to detect the origin on the signal, Greenbank Freedom City.

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"It's a good name," said Jack, bending down to kiss his wife on the lips. Their courtship had been a whirlwind one, but happily accepted by both her family and his. He'd been a bit worried that the strong ethnic ties of his family and hers would be an obstacle, but once they'd shown their love to his parents and hers, no one had been willing to stand in the way of their feelings. "For a great lady. Ms. Faretti." He kissed her again, because it felt nice, stroking her face and pulling her close. "I just love the sound of that."

"It's no Dr. Faretti," said Taylor pleasantly, leaning back and folding her hands across her stomach, "but it'll do for a while." Taylor still had big plans to finish her education and get that doctorate she'd been working on when they met, but right then she was content to be a stay-at-home-wife while her husband worked downtown at the temple. After all, they'd have a baby on the way soon if all their efforts counted for anything. "Honey, can you fix me up the last of the steak?" she asked him, giving him a lazy smile. "I'm ravenous for meat."

"Sure thing," said Jack agreeably, leaning down to peck her cheek before getting up to wander into the kitchen. They'd spent most of their savings on this little house way off at the edge of the suburbs in Pyramid City, but it had been well worth the investment. Humming contentedly, Jack turned on the television as he opened up the refrigerator...and almost jumped out of his skin! Taylor came running at his shout, Jack looking at her with wide eyes as he slammed the door shut.

"What the hell happened to our food?" he asked her, his face pale. Taylor frowned and looked at him, pulling the door open wide.

"Jack, honey, that's not funny." Sure enough, their refrigerator was full of a massive quantity of food; fresh produce and cut meat, baked goods and pies, bottles of milk and juice and soda. There was more food in there than anyone could reasonably want. Jack shook his head, remembering the rows of medical blood bags he'd seen in there. He knew those well enough; he'd seen them at the temple.

"I..." Jack closed his eyes. "I guess I was remembering the movie from last night." He looked in the refrigerator and shook his head. "I'm sorry, baby, I must have been wool-gathering." He leaned close and pecked her on the cheek. She gave him a patient smile and kissed him back, giving him a worried look.

"You should take a rest, honey. I'll cook the food." She kicked off her socks and was barefoot, the better to get around on the tiled floor. "You're working too hard as it is. They need you to be at your best."

Jack turned and headed back into the living room at that, settling down on the couch and closing his eyes. Surely that wouldn't happen again.

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Dark Star might be considered on of the biggest boy scouts in the vicinity of Earth by some. And for the most part, he really was. But he hadn't spent extensive time working with Scarab and Avenger in the past to not have picked up enough information to be a little careful. Once upon a time, he'd have just flown right in there. This was obviously a trap, specifically for him and likely Avenger as well. That called for a little caution. Not a lot mind you, given the timer. He couldn't risk his companion after all.

Dark Star aligned his energies, concealing his presence as he plummeted towards the Earth a couple miles from the signal's origin. Passing through the ground, he changed directions and flew through the earth to approach the location. When he got closer, he slowed and extended his senses to see what was waiting for him.

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As he extended his senses upwards two things became immediatly apparent to Dark Star. Firstly the facility seemed like a permanent one still under construction. Much of the operating equipment was fully functional but expanses of cableing and ductwork were still exposed revealing some impressive technology. The second was that the central system of this facility was what appeared to be technology the Lor Empire had discarded as unworkable, a Black Hole Projector.

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"I am a sinner." Jack crossed himself and stepped back from the temple's holy symbol, the gold and red scarab shining down on him with the reflected light of morning. Heru-Ra had lived and died for the sins of man thousands of years before, only to be reborn again and again in a new body to carry on the fight for justice. Was it any wonder His worship had become the dominant religion on the planet? Still, today, for the first time, Jack felt a strange sensation looking up at that jeweled bug. I need to get this off my chest.

Walking out of the sanctuary with his fellow worshippers, Jack turned to Derrick and asked a question that had been on his mind. "Hey, can you take my confession?" Derrick was a good man, one of Jack's best friends, and unlike the temple's accountant had actually taken enough holy orders to take a confession.

"Of course, Jack," said Derrick warmly, gladly leading the way towards the nearby booth. Derrick really was a very decent man. Jack had always envied him all that virtue. Derrick slid the screen shut and pronounced the holy words, Jack feeling a strange, guilty twist as his friend recited the benediction he'd heard since childhood. That's...that's not right. Eventually Derrick did finally ask Jack what was going on, and Jack began to talk.

"For the last several weeks, something strange has been happening to me." He looked down at his hands in the darkness of the booth, rubbing them together. "I've been having...visions."

"Visions, Jack?" asked Derrick carefully. "What kind of visions?"

"My hands." Jack looked down at them again. "My hands, covered in blood."

"Why do you think this has been happening, Jack?"

"I don't know, I...I mean, I know we're all excited about the Avatar visiting this month, but I think this is something separate."

"What does Taylor think about all this?"

"I can't tell her," Jack confessed, pain in his voice. "God, Derrick, you know all the fighting we did early on. What if she finds out what I'm really like? She's seen some pretty ugly parts of me as it is."

"What do you mean, Jack?" The more Jack thought about Derrick's last question as the days went on, the more his doubt grew. He was a good man, contented with his family and with fine prospects at his job. He loved his wife dearly. What _was_ wrong with him? Why was he so worried about Taylor knowing what he was really like?


"You worry too much," Taylor told him reassuringly as they walked together through the park, pushing one of her charges in a wheelchair. Taylor had started volunteering at the local home for the elderly recently, and when Jack wasn't at work he liked to go visit with her with the old folks. The old man in the chair drooled pleasantly, staring at nothing. "Really, Jack. You're going to do fine."

"I'm glad you think so," said Jack, his hand on her shoulder as they headed through the park together. It was a warm fall day, the leaves just beginning to turn colors. As they walked on, he caught sight of a small gaggle of oddly dressed people standing together in the woods, blinking as they disappeared when next he looked. The shadows were deep over there..."Huh. Yeah, uh, I do hope so. I was surprised when the Bishop picked me out to be in the welcoming party."

"You'll do fine," she reassured him again, patting his hand, then reaching down to wipe at Ace's mouth. "Who better to welcome the Avatar than her favored childe?"

Jack blinked at her turn of phrase. "Well, I guess we all are," he said with a little laugh. "I mean, we all come from the same place. Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust." He looked down at his hands and forced a smile still on his face. My hands are covered in blood!

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Dark Star blinked and was more than a tad concerned at what he could tell. Such technology was unstable at best, not to mention the destructive ramifications of it actually working. The Earth, any planet really, was in grave danger if someone was pursuing this research. He needed to rescue Avenger and destroy the device, along with any research on it if possible. At least it didn't seem operational.

But first he had to find the dark hero. Something about this whole thing did not sit well however. He rose slowly through the ground, staying just a few feet underground as he let his senses search the area. Suspiciously, he found nothing. Nothing at all. Frowning, he rose up out of the ground, just outside the device, peering inside. "Avenger? Are you there?"

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As Dark Star rises through the floor the ambient gravtic flux from the device abates enough that his senses are finally able to pierce the advanced composites of the device entrapping Avenger. The Device has an internal cylindrical chamber nearly ten feet in diameter and of the same height. At the center of the chamber stands Avenger in full costume looking down at his own spread hands. There are powerful energies swirling around the Hero but thier exact purpose is beyond Dark Stars understanding. this is a highly advanced peice of technology unlike anything he has seen before but its purpose is for the time being a mystery, the energies it is capeable of generating are certainly dangerous to the occupant with prolonged exposure however.

As all of this is revealed the screens around the room flicker to life displaying Avengers alter ego Jack Farretti and others in a familiar yet alien setting.

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Dark Star was really confused by the images on the screens but this wasn't the time to dwell on that. The sudden buildup of multuple and impressive gravitic energies around him was more than a little disturbing. He wasn't worried, being immune to such forces. But the awareness of a sudden presence behind him definitely wasn't a good thing. He had no idea what the machine Avenger was in was doing exactly but destroying it could prove disastrous to the other hero. He couldn't risk that. He needed another option and, given the sudden presence behind him, he was out of time. One one or another, it was time to act.

He flashed forward, passing through and staying on the edge of the machine. As he moved into it, a multitude of images, those are the screens, assaulted his mind. He shook off the mental assault and acted. He reached out, snagging Avenger in his telekinetic grip, tossing him at one side of the machine. Even as he threw the dark hero, Dark Star send a special type of energy into the vampire altering his structure and turning him into pure energy. The now-insubstantial hero passed right through the wall of the machine to 'safety'.

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Avenger flew through the wall of the device in Dark Stars Telekinetic grip. Just as Dark Star turned to leave the now malfunctioning device the field that had been growing behind him suddenly stabalized and expanded shutting down all of Dark Stars powers as the finely tuned gravimetrics of the device matched in perfect resonance to his own energies.

Avenger fell to the ground, his mind still lost in the fantasy realm, his body lifeless. The door to the device sprung open and Dark Star could see now the Villian who had entrapt avenger and himself. He was a tall man of eastern european descent from his features, the side of his face twisted by what apeared to be some kind of burn marring his otherwise attractive form. He was well dressed and held in his hand the delicate device that had proven Dark Stars undoing.

"And so the mighty shall be brought low." Said the man with a mad gleam in his eye, "It was quite the lucky coincidence that your friend here," He aimed a wicked kick at Avengers unconcious form, " happened upon my lair."

With a gesture Dark Stars form was pulled from the device by some mysterious force. "I had thought it would take weeks more before I was able to lure you into my grasp, but lady luck has shined upon me today. Soon now the world will quake in fear of the name of their new overlord, Vaslev Tcheny, Muah HA Ha HA haha."

He flung Dark Star into position between two strange pillars and with the flip of a switch they began to siphon the Gravtic Energies of the hero to power the terrible Black Hole Generator. As the siphons began Dark Star knew pain like none he had ever known before. As he watched the man who had been his undoing carefully strap Avengers limp form into a chair next to the device and fit him with a strange electronic crown. "Yes my friend," He said patting Avengers masked cheek, "Soon the secrets of your little band of friends will be mine and NO ONE will be able to stop my DESTINY!" Avengers thoughts once more began to play themselves out ont he screens as the villian looked on and tried to decipher the knights secrets from Avengers dreams.

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Jack woke up on the couch, starting awake from yet another nightmare. As had happened so many times in the last few months, Taylor was there waiting for him, a sympathetic look on her face and a cool compress for his head. She'd taken such good care of him since he'd fallen ill, even after she'd made the announcement to him that she was finally carrying their long-hoped for child. "Sssh, sssh, it's okay." She gave him a small smile, neatly perching next to him on the overstuffed couch. He'd started sleeping there, at his own insistence, after he'd hurt her once in his nighttime thrashing, biting at her neck hard enough to leave blood. But that had been weeks ago, and that scare had faded. "Another nightmare?"

"Yes..." Jack shook his head, sitting up into her embrace. "I'm so sorry," he murmured to her, hugging her tightly. "Prophet, I'm a terrible husband." He looked up at her guiltily. "How many nights have I spent here, when I should be in bed with you? And with our son?" He put his hand on her stomach, a worried look on his face. What kind of man was he, really? Their families had been so supportive in his illness, his in-laws and his parents coming over to help them...But it's NOT RIGHT! They shouldn't love me. They shouldn't be there for me. The feeling never quite went away, however much he wanted it to, leaving him with guilt that haunted his nightmares.

"It's all right," she told him gently. "Lovers should be there for each other." She hugged him back, then sat up, walking to the living room door. For the first time, Jack realized he could hear someone in the other room. "I met a doctor and her servant at the mall today. I invited them both in to meet you." Tiredly, Jack sat up to meet the new arrivals; a pale-faced woman with black hair and her assistant, a woman with green hair who bore the tattoo of a metahuman. Once the empowered had roamed the Earth like gods before the human race had risen up to remind them of their duty. Now the empowered served mankind, as was their duty. Wait...

"Hello, I'm Claudia," said the doctor with a smile, shaking Jack's hand as her servant unpacked her bag. She wasn't introduced, of course; metahumans weren't supposed to feel pride. "I understand you've been having nightmares?" She did the usual exams, unbuttoning Jack's shirt and checking his vitals, while her servant handed her her instruments and Taylor watched approvingly, her hands folded over her stomach. Over her head, the big grandfather clock they'd gotten as a wedding present from his father ticked away the hours.

"Yes," said Jack, reluctantly sharing some of the dreams with her. "I've had..violent dreams," he admitted, "and been violent in my sleep. I've been hoping to meet the Avatar when she visits this month, but so far my health hasn't been up to it."

"Well, I'm sure you'll be up to it soon enough," said Claudia with a smile. She sat on the edge of the couch and began unbuttoning her blouse, turning to her servant. "Transfuser," she said, with considerably more coldness than she'd spoken to Jack. The servant, whose name Jack still didn't know, reached into the bag and...bobbled, dropping the bottle in her hands onto the ground. It would have hit the soft carpet, but unluckily struck the table as it fell and shattered into a dozen pieces. With a startled shriek, the servant jumped to her feet.

"Ooh, Claudia, I am so sorry!" she exclaimed. "I'm so sorry, I'll clean that up!"

"You stupid COW!" Claudia was on her feet, slapping her hand across her servant's face. "This is the third bottle you've broken this month! I have a mind to pull your hair out by the roots!" She raised her hand again and Jack caught her by the wrist, a sudden, boiling rage pulsing through him.

"Stop it." She shot him a look, her eyes boiling with undoctorly contempt.

"What did you say to me!?"

"I...said...STOP IT" And with that, as Taylor screamed, Jack threw Claudia through the glass paneling of the grandfather clock. There was screaming and crashing, Taylor's cries and the white face of the green-haired servant as she ran to tend her fallen master. Jack looked down. My hands are covered in blood!

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Dark Star twitched uncontrollably as his body was wracked with pain. He was trapped and in a blinding amount of pain. Everything he tried, and he did try, was simply absorbed by the machine. Whoever this villain was, he seemed to have planned Dark Star's capture very well. Everything he did simply powered a machine capable of destroying star systems. It was all he could do to focus on what was happening, let alone stop it. Outside, the screen showing Avenger's bizarre dreams were almost completely unnoticed.

He gasped out as best he can, forcing the words out as he reached deep inside himself to find the will to resist. "Never...heard...of you... You'll...never...succeed.... Others ... defeat...you... And...there...is...one...flaw...to...your...plan..." Dark Star, with one final gasp and scream, shut off his own energies. All that practice to spend time with Stesha, he never figured it would help save the solar system. In an instant, where Dark Star had been hovering before, a regular human remained. Derrick, no longer floating, crashed to the bottom the device. No longer in pain from the draining, he picked himself up and stood tall. "You need Dark Star to power your machine. And all you have left is me." He hadn't particularly wanted to give up his identity but it was that or be the reason for countless deaths. A fair trade off. Besides, it would take quite some time for this villain to track down who he really was.

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The mastermind behind his capture largly ignored Dark Stars inevitable protestations that others would stop him. He knew better however these two wouldn't be missed for days possibly weeks. Already the base was shielded from psychic senses as well as even the most advanced devices that could be used to trace their were abouts.

However when the power readings suddenly dropped to nothing he whirled, eyes blazing with a mad light, "Inconceivable!" He spat in outrage, "All the readings show that it should take you hours to achieve that state." He was furiously sorting through reams of data on one of the giant monitors.

He stalked over to Dark Star and with a dark smile spoke suddenly calm and collected once more, "Very well. We shall have to find another way to ... coax you into cooperating. I have time on my side after all, your friends hav no hope of finding you, this facility has the most advanced defenses against sensors available and even your little pet psychic won't be able to defeat my psychic screen." Satisfied that Dark Star was sufficiently cowed he whirled to adgust the settign on jacks device trying to squeeze from his mind the secret that Dark Star would sacrafice the world for.

As he worked he mumbled under his breath, "Come my pet show it to me, show me the girl there is always a girl."

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Across town Taylor waited for Jack to show up for thier schedualed date. Staying with Stesha complicated things a bit but they had agreed to meet at this coffee shop over two hours ago and Taylor knew only too well the look the barrista was giving her. That half mocking half sympathetic 'You got Stood up Look'

It certainly wasn't the first time Jack had been called away for one reason or another but he had always called her before.

Back at her appartment Stesha stared at the rapidly cooling dinner she had cooked for Derricks visit. It was not like him to just not show up like this it took but a thought for him to tap into the cellular network and call her. She heard a small sound at the door and while she was glad to offer Taylor a place to stay she wasn't lookign forward to faceing her after being stood up like this. Especially not if Jack might be with her.

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She'd at least manage to get caugh up on school work in the two hours of cooling her heels. When Taylor absolutely couldn't stand the looks the barista was shooting at her, she headed outside to check her messages - nothing - and find an alley to teleport back to Stesha's to see if a message hadn't been left there.

"I'm not trying to interrupt," Taylor said as she was teleporting into the living room, "Jack didn't leave a message... Where's Dark Star?"

After catiously glancing around as she hadn't wanted to port in on her friends making out, it wasn't hard to notice a significant lack of Stesha's significant other.

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"I don't know," Stesha said, setting down the spatula she'd been futilely wielding to try and keep her alfredo sauce from congealing. "He must have had something to do," she said, a little disconsolately. "Help yourself to some food, if you feel like it." She tugged the mitt off her hand then went over to open the front door. "Sounds like Mrs. Everly's dog got out again. She's really bad about that."

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