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Doktor, Banker, Breaker, Thief (IC)

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11:50 AM

March 27th, 2012

"E-Sea" - Eastern Seaboard Bank, City Centre District.

Freedom City, New Jersey.

Spring was hitting Freedom City with a vengeance this fine March day; the sun was shining almost blindingly off of the tall glass skyscrapers in the city's hectic downtown area. Freedomites went about their buisness with springs in their steps and joy all over the place, after the chaos of Mister Motley's nefarious plan, it was good for things to get back to normal. Though marks of what had happened still scarred parts of the landscape, here and there. Still, the inhabitants of the heroic capital of the world were nothing if not a resilient bunch.

One bank in particular was determined to go about their buisness like any other day - the City Centre E-Sea was doing a healthy trade; the lineups not too long, but not too short either. Money changed hand over fist over the counter, and the manager looked down from his office with contentment (ignoring the plasma scarring on his desk).

Still, one thing about Freedom City. Normal was never normal around here.

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Harvey Krolik looked tired. But who didn't, in this economy? Times were tough for many, though Krolik was a bit more secure than most. Spice importing, like home improvement stores, were often a stable business no matter the economic climate: in lean times, people would buy materials to do their own repairs, or their own spices to perk up cheap, bland food, while in more prosperous times, people would hire professionals to renovate and add on (and they had to buy their materials from somewhere), and would try more exotic fares (with more exotic spices). Krolik had been a spice merchant for nearly two decades, importing them from his Russian homeland, and did well enough to live comfortably without attracting too much attention from the Mafiya.

At least, that's what his papers indicated. Thing is, Harvey Krolik was not real.

Okay, two deposit boxes here, check them and then on to-

Ooh, look at the legs on that one!

I want a lollipop! All the lollipops!

Now, now, no need to be greedy. This is a simple job, in and out, and then-

Yeah, I'd like to give her the ol' "in and-

Shut up, all of you.

"Hello, young miss," he greeted the teller when it was his turn. He placed his liver-spotted hands upon the counter, folding them neatly, "I have come to check my safety deposit boxes. Two of them. It has been some time since I do so -- are you the one I speak to about it? Or is there another?"

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One part of Mr. Krolik's psyche was dead on the money as he walked up to the teller; the young lady was indeed both bright-eyed and attractive, giving a winning smile as he walked up to the desk. Her uniform was immaculate, save for a couple of singe marks on her nameplate. And some carbon scoring on the desk. A distant sound of sirens wafted through the open doors, over the murmuring of the crowd; fairly far off, though.

"Welcome to E-Sea! I'm Penny, and I'll be your teller today." She listened attentively for a moment, then nodded. "Oh, absolutely, sir; I can escort you to those boxes, no trouble at all. I'll just need your paperwork, name, and account number." Another sunny smile.

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"Of course, young lady," the older Russian smiled, and handed over a worn piece of paper with his account information. "I am havink trouble rememberink sometimes, so I have to keep things written down."

Why are we bothering with this? These people are fools, and the security here is a joke!

[bg=#000000]Yes, I could easily make something vastly superior.[/bg]

Oh, I don't know; they are hit a lot, but they're still in business, so they've got to have something good here. I probably couldn't make anything much better.

They wouldn't get hit so much if they had decent countermeasures! Don't just use lasers as motion sensors, use them to slice robber's limbs off!

But then they would be more desperate, and-

I said shut up! None of you are helping.

... okay, that is better.

"Ah, and here," he reached into his pockets and pulled out an old leather wallet, "is driver's license and ATM card. You are needink more? Fingerprints, maybe?," he joked.

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Penny smiled again, but shook her head. "Not at all, sir; that comes at the deposit box stage."

And surprisingly, that wasn't a joke.

The young teller picked up the paperwork and hummed briefly while going through them. The driver's license and ATM card were met with an approving nod, and after a few minutes of looking and tapping into her desk computer, she slid the papers into a handy folder and stood up, placing it under her arm.

"Well, everything seems in order here. If you'll follow me, sir; the secondary vault is this way. Just through security."

Security was putting it mildly. Once off of the lobby, cameras were all over the place, metal detectors, even a checkpoint before the vault door. The teller smiled brightly at one of the two security guards, who simply nodded. One of them tapped in a fifteen-digit code, and the huge metal edifice of the door began to swing open. The teller even tried making small talk as they waited for the door to open.

"So, how long have you been banking with us, Mister Krolik?"

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"Hrm?" Harvey seemed startled out of some reverie. In truth, the Rhine blue eyes behind the blue-gray contacts were sweeping over the bank, taking in every detail at fantastic speeds and filing them away in his nanite-enhanced mind.

"Oh! How long... yes, let me see, it has been... oh, almost twenty years!" He nodded, "Not long after Terminus Invasion." He was silent a moment, and got that far-off look most Freedonians got when discussing that darkest of days. "I was very lucky, my warehouse only took minor damage. But seeink all that destruction, such devastation, made me want somethink more secure for my most previous valuables."

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The sizeable vault door swung open, and Penny lead the way inside with a spring in her step. Although the mention of the Terminus Invasion did lower her cheerful demeanor somewhat; she nodded sympathetically. "Everyone lost something those days."

Rows and rows of safety deposit boxes and the occasional safe lined the interior of the bank's secondary vault, and the teller poked around here and there before pointing out two numbers, side by side. "And...yep, these should be yours." She reached up, bringing one out and checking the number before holding it out to the Russian. A fingerprint scanner was on the top of the box, beeping quietly. Penny held it outstretched, ready for the merchant to take it out of her ha-

BOOM.

The vault shook. The building shook. The box slipped from the girl's hands and started tumbling towards the floor. And alarms started going off.

It had been such a nice day, too...

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Krolik staggered, "Oh! That..." he looked around timidly, "that was not normal construction sounds. A fight overhead, maybe?"

No, not that -- something struck the building, and judging by the way it shook, struck it dead center. Which implies it was intentionally targeted, not some grazing blow by two meta brawling up above. Cannot tell from where while in this vault, though, the reverberations were too much to calculate the impact.

Okay, first things first, make sure the people are safe. Could be anything out there, some thugs with some very high-powered explosives, maybe a commandeered energy weapon. Or some supervillain, either some new one who kept any powers they got from the Proteus affair, or some established one.

"I-I think we should gather people together," the Russian said, still shaking a bit, "make sure no one was hurt."

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Penny looked about somewhat shakily, but the natural iron of the Freedom City citizen took hold and she nodded. "E-Sea security is well-trained and capable, sir...but that's probably a very good idea. Stay close, please. Everything's going to be alright."

Despite prior experience (she was a bank teller in Freedom City, experience was putting it mildly), the last part of that statement seemed more calculated to reassure herself. She started to lead the way towards the half-open vault door, opening her mouth to call out, when two sounds came from outside.

Two sounds of two heavy somethings hitting the floor. And nasty laughter. Penny turned white.

This wasn't good.

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Sounded like the two guards falling. Could be professionals who know what they're doing, or just some jumpy amateurs. Cannot identify the laugh, either. I have to get out there to see!

But I have to make sure she is not in any undue danger, too.

"Maybe you should be stayink here, young miss," the humble spice merchant said, steel slowly showing in his voice. "They see you, they know you work here, may hurt you to get to monies. They see me, they see older man, dressed plainly; is customer, not work here, so they cannot force me to open anything. Maybe I talk sense to these punks... maybe not. They use me as hostage," he gave a slightly exaggerated shrug, "is okay, I have long life. You, you are young, have much ahead of you."

He turned to walk out the vault door.

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Penny clasped her hands over her mouth in shock, stepping forward to stop the elderly gentleman...but unfortunately the choice was then taken out of both their hands. A pair of meaty hands pulled on the half-open vault door, and it sloooowly swung open - revealing two leather-clad thug-types; one with a baseball bat and one with a crowbar - the two guards lay dazed and/or unconscious on the floor behind them. They seemed to have disregarded the guards' weapons, strangely enough; and they were bantering as they slowly pulled it open.

"Oi, oi, y'heard what the boss said - no hurtin' the civvies." "Yeah, yeah; the boss ain't here. Youse wanna make somethin' of it?" "Nah, man, but still. Y'didn't haveta sucker punch the guy." "Pfft, guards ain't civvies." "Oh, come on..."

The two stopped cold when they saw the civilians in the vault. Baseball Bat blinked. Crowbar grinned. "Well, looky here. Two more hostages. And looks like they already got started lootin' the vault for us! Whatsay you open up that there box and we won't have any trouble, old man."

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Irish accents and looks, but slang, grammar and syntax indicate American English was learned first, so they're most likely locals, or maybe from Boston or Philadelphia. Reference to a boss, he's probably the only one with metahuman abilities, so these would just be hired lackeys. Are the two items related - is this some 'ethnic gang'?

"Box? What?," the 'old man' said, appearing a bit confused by the chaos, but quickly he recovered. "No! I mean, sure, take vault, I no care -- bank is insured, they get monies back. Just do not hurt people, no more... and you cannot have my box!" He clutched his safety deposit box close to his chest.

If they're focused on me, at least they're not targeting anyone else. I've got to find out who's the one calling the shots, though. The sonics imply Coda or Maestro, but they wouldn't rob a bank, or Rant, but there's no light show, so Rave's not here, and he wouldn't be here without her.

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Crowbar snarled and slapped his weapon to his palm menacingly, taking a few steps forward with violence glinting in his eyes...but Baseball Bat held his own in front of his comrade with a warning look. "Oi, these two ain't guards."

Penny still stood stock-still, out of fright, eyes flickering between the two parties. Baseball Bat gave an amiable smile to the two of them, holding out his empty left-hand palm. "Now, now, no need t'be so reticent, matey. S'just a box, right? Sentimental stuff? Not worth riskin' your life over, or the little lady here. We don't wanna hurt nobody, right?" Grin. Muttered "Speak for yourself" from Crowbar. "Whatsay you just hand that over nice and peaceful like, we'll just take the valuables, and if you've got any photos or somethin' like that we'll-" "Oh, come on, man! Just waste the guy and take the damn thing!"

Crowbar shoved Baseball Bat over and advanced again, Baseball Bat trying to hold him back. He gave an apologetic look to the incognito hero. "Look, mate; I don't wanna let my friend go here, but we're kinda on a tight schedule. Just hand it over, we'll let you keep the sentimental stuff, and take you to the other hostages, okay?"

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Baseball Bat seems reasonable, but Crowbar's definitely one to watch for. Agitated, edgy... ah, yes, I know just what to do.

The 'old Russian' clutched the safety deposit box closer, but Baseball Bat's calm(er) words got him to relax a bit. "Yes... is only personal things, no valuables. Not valuable for you. Is pictures, of... of my wife." Being sure to keep one eye on the two thieves, he set the box down on the nearest surface, and opened it, revealing several black and white pictures of a strikingly beautiful young woman.

A DC 15 Knowledge (Popular Culture or Technology) check reveals they are pics of

Hedy Lamarr.

A DC 27 Notice check (or having Microscopic Vision) reveals there's more to the pics than meets the eye.

"These are all I have of my Maria. We lost so much, in the pogroms... Archeville spun a tale of woe, spoken mostly at Crowbar, telling of a youth spent in the harsh Soviet Union, first under the tail end of Stalin's regime, then during the paranoia of the Cold War. The harsh days, the harsher nights, the chance encounter with a ballet dancer, her harsher life due to her Jewish family being constantly uprooted, and of their love that was almost lost when they were separated while fleeing their country for hopes of a better life elsewhere. His voice trailed off in many places, but the man soldiered on despite the grief it caused him.

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Baseball Bat was the first to crack. About halfway through the story, tears start sliding down his face in rivers, and great hiccuping sobs begin escaping from Crowbar shortly after that. By the time the old man's story was finished, both of them were leaning against the wall, crying and wailing - one of them, his arm over his eyes, patted the old man on the shoulder - the crowbar discarded.

"Aw, hell, man...I-I'm sorry, I...I...uh...wah...whaaaaaaaahaahaahaaaa!" He dropped to his knees and planted his face in his hands, crying his eyes out. Baseball Bat was slumped with Penny, both of them just bawling against the safety deposit boxes. Clearly the story had hit them like a freight train as well.

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Not the ideal situation, but she should be safe for the moment. Glad it worked, too -- that was a big mental strain!

The 'old Russian' put the pictures (which contained, hidden in the pixels made up of As, Cs, Gs, and Ts, the genetic sequences for coding the mutation allowing a person to perceive and transmit radio waves) back into the safety deposit box, closed and locked it, and set it under the table, out of immediate sight. He then slowly shuffled out of the vault area, into the lobby. He touched Penny's shoulder as he passed, and looked her in the eyes. "I'm sorry," he whispered, "I'm so, so sorry."

And now to find who's in charge.

"Hello?," he timidly called out. "Is everyone... okay? I hear the most awful racket..."

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The large lobby the elderly gentleman had passed through had changed. Considerably. Where the front doors were now were occupied by a very large van, two more in front of it. The front of the lead van looking somewhat squashed from the likely impact with the heavy glass doors. Five men with shotguns stood over the crowd who had been lined up at the tills, now having been herded into a corner and sitting on their hands. Another five were quite efficiently pouring the cash from the registers into bags, passing them to another five who were unarmed, tossing them from hand to hand to hand and into the side door of the van. By the doors, a positive mountain of a man, dressed in biker leathers and with a towering neon green mohawk, kept watch outside and gestured for the men to work faster. He had a big ol' grin on his face, the tall fella did. Cracked his knuckles a couple of times and kept looking up at the sky now and again.

To an experienced hero like the Doktor, the efficiency these men were working with - given their likely ganger status - was quite unorthodox. When the old man came shuffling into the lobby, the mohawk fellow immediately pointed a hand towards him, and one thug disengaged from the hostages with his weapon upraised. Unlike the other two thugs, he didn't sweet-talk or threaten. He talked sharp. "Bad timin', mate. Roight, please put your hands on your 'ead and your face on the ground."

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... oh boy.

Right, quick headcount: armed crooks there, there, there, there, and there, hostages there, more armed crooks there, there, there, there, and there, unarmed crooks there, there, there, there, and there, and leader there. Also three vans, assorted debris...

The old Russian spice merchant looked around at the scene, appearing quite confused at what was transpiring before him. He did not go down, instead looking up and down and all around (and in reality making a perfect mental map of the area). "W-what is goink on here? This is not cafeteria -- where is Millie? She is supposed to bring me my pudding. Is Friday, is time for pudding with dinner!"

Not going to get the drop on them like I did the other two, but if I can get a few off-guard, that might give me enough of a chance to take action.

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The thug was blinking, looking rather gobsmacked. The gun lowered from his position, and he started stammering out some kind of apology with a mystified look on his face, when a steady tromp-tromp-tromp sound was heard, and a meaty hand dropped on his shoulder. Both the Russian merchant and the thug looked up to see the mohawked boss standing (well, more towering) over them. And worse yet?

He was smiling. Friendly-like. He patted his thug's shoulder.

"Wotcher, mate. Wossay you go over to them vending machines over there, and grab me boyo 'ere a nice cuppa choc from there? Cheers, aye?"

The confused thug nodded, and started weaving his way over to a series of vending machines against the far wall. Breaker crossed his arms, and gave a very wide grin to the elderly gentleman in front of him.

"Welp, apologies there for the conduct of me boys, sir. They don't know how to handle the aged and infirm; 'specially those what call for puddin' in the middle of a bank robbery. P'raps you'll let us grab you a nice and cushy seat, or maybe you can tell me where the two boys I sent to the back are? They send you out 'ere all alone, chum?"

The grin turned somewhat toothy. And Dok could immediately tell. Mr. Breaker was not fooled.

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Oh! Of course he saw though my deceit! Now he's just toying with me!

Fool! I'll toy with him, and leave him a gibbering wreck -- those two in the vault got off easy compared to what I'll do to-

No, no! There's no need for that -- Breaker is an honorable crook, we can talk to him, reason-

FIGHT FIGHT FIIIGHT!

Quiet, all of you!

The 'old Russian' leaned slightly to one side, to get one last look at the assorted henchmen before looking up at Breaker. "Alright," he said, his voice returning to the younger Germanic tone. His posture and bearing remained the same, though -- no point in dropping it completely, if the henchmen were still fooled, "you're brighter than I took you for, I'll give you that. So why not just expose me right off? Why send your boy off to the vending machine?"

"You're curious, is what," he continued, "wondering who I am under this, and, like you said, what happened to your two men in the vault. Well, I assure you, those two are fine. A bit weepy, and they'll probably want to call their mothers or aunties when they're through here, but otherwise unharmed. Me, well," he gave a slight shrug, "I just came to do some personal business, but I've got a bit of a distinctive face, so I put this all on, act a part, so I can move around more easily."

"And now you're really curious, right? I must be someone important, if I go to all this trouble, get made up like this, just to do a bit of banking, right? Except it can't be just some simple banking -- that could be done over the phone, or online; to be here, in person, it must be something big. And, on top of that," he jerked his head back towards the vault, "I put down two of your men, without making much of a sound -- none of you heard anything, right, Flint?"

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Breaker, to his credit, didn't bat an eye at the use of his name. In fact, his grin go wider. "Ho-ho-ho...and here I thought this 'eist'd be borin'. No-ope, not a thing; didn't 'ear a bloody thing, mate. And please, call me Markus."

The powerhouse stretched, and gave a somewhat more sly turn to his face. "Well, first up - 'cos I wasn't sure if you were foolin'. Thanks for confirmin' that, tho'. Lessee what else we got 'ere; a fellow what's checkin' 'is bank incognito, and your bein' kind enough to 'splain precisely what I'm missin' there, and in a devilishly different soundin' voice...aye, aye, you've got me curious. Basics - if it wasn't f'the fact that you left me boyos conscious back there - aye, I'm takin' your word for it - then I s'pose I'd be inclined to say you're a bad fella. As is, I reckon you're a good fella."

He shrugged his mighty shoulders. The grin turned dangerous. The thugs tensed, but he waved them off - to a man, they looked rather confused. The cash-bag line kept going, though.

"Ooh, I was waitin' for a hero t'show up. They make f'the best showdowns, y'know? And exercise! So, who are you? Pseudo? He does the shapeshiftin' thing a lot, but then again, the accent's a bit off, mate."

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Calculating....

"Sharp as a tack, you are. Okay, Markus, tell you what I'll do," he said, smiling that salesman's grin he'd semi-unconsciously programmed into VINCE. "I'll give you some clues, and three chances to guess who I am. You make me, we'll get in a brawl -- either I'm a hero and I'll want to stop you, or a villain who'd not mind taking your haul -- but I'll let you get in the first hit free, which might well put me out and you could make off with all that loot."

Though with luck I'll get my full force field up in time to protect me.

"You fail to figure out who I am, you all stop what you're doing and leave, with no more than is already in your vans. If I'm a hero, I'll call in some associates to track you down, but if I'm a villain, I'll take up what you leave behind and go my own way, and I can slip out while the police are busy tracking you. Any way it goes, we all get something we want. So," he extended an empty, liver-spotted hand, "you game?"

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The big powerhouse stared at the little man, then threw back his head and laughed. Big, booming laughs. Ones that shook the rafters - his brethren took up some smaller chuckles, but for the most part just kept their weapons ready. Breaker waved them down, and put a big and meaty hand on the Doktor's shoulder, grinning brilliantly.

"I like you, little man. Tell you what, I'll make things a bit easier for ya. Boys, let the 'ostages go!"

Big nod, though most of the thugs' jaws dropped. A small flurry of objections rose from them, and he rounded on the lot of 'em with a bellowed "SHUT I'!". The big man stared them all down as they returned to their jobs, and he spoke flat. "You lads know I'm no dope, and it's a battle o' wits versus a straight-on brawl; 'ow can I lose?" A more serious expression. "This li'l fellow's still an 'ostage, and we ain't 'avin' any civvies in the crossfire if this goes south, you got me? Let 'em go."

The men with shotguns put up their weapons, and several of the hostages got up slowly. Some started moving tentatively to the door. A few, braver than the others, started running for the door. When it became apparent that nobody was about to get in their way, the whole lot scrambled out, a few yelling thanks to the courageous old man standing before the powerhouse. For his part, he picked up a pair of metal chairs and put them down across from each other, sitting down in one. He gestured for the other man to sit.

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Calcula- what?

Wow, better than I'd thought. Still...

Calculating...

He drew his hand back and clapped sharply, "Excellent! And very honorable of you, sir." He remained standing, "alright, first clue:"

And then he began to do a little jig before the powerhouse.

"Angels and demons have I fought.

The Interceptors once me caught.

The Leagues, of Freedom, and of Crime,

I have all faced, from time to time.

Baronessess have known my touch

(Although, of late, not very much.)

Went East to West, then West to East;

Then 'round again (once more, at least).

I've flown the skies and delved the seas!

So Markus, tell -- do you know me?"

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Breaker put an elbow on his knee and cupped his chin, thoughtfully - though truth be told, the neon green mohawk kinda ruined the pensive effect somewhat. He stared at the jig, giving a slight -snerk- during it, and nodded approvingly. He started musing out loud, the thugs themselves watching; mystified.

"Huh...Innerceptors - never ran into their part of town; tried t'stick t'Southside - know a coupla good brawlin' heroes what 'ang around there, and world-savers are a bit unfair given my size." Wry smile. "Whole thing sounds pretty villainous. Or 'eroic. Depends on y'perspective, hmm..." Tap-tap-tap. "'oo 'as the Innerceptors fought b'fore, and oo's tackled both the Freedom League and Crime League...prob'ly be pretty independent...world trav'ler, too...ya'd 'ave t'be pretty decent t'give a shot like this t'boot..." Tap-tap-tap. A light-bulb lit, but tentatively; he gave the talker a narrow look. "Aye, aye - a smart-talker, a world-trav'ler, and a gamester. You're a Wildcard, aren't you?"

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