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April 10th, 2016, 2.32PM

The Vault


Of all the sounds least expected at the door of a secret lair holding a plethora of powerful mystic artifacts and housing a champion of order and justice, the sound of a firm series of knocks and the words "Mr. Templar! I'd like to talk to you on behalf of the IRS!" in a young woman's voice were pretty high up there.


Outside, IRS agent Violet Amethyst Khasani Sefir-Hull felt the full awkwardness and surreality of her position, fiddling with her dark suit and briefcase and occasionally squinting irritably through her curly snowy bangs at the blazing, cheerful sky. It had been an exhausting walk, but sitting down or even leaning were out of the question. These super-types could smell fear, and any sign of weakness might jeopardize her whole mission.


So she squared her padded shoulders, wished for the tenth time that day she wasn't so tall, gangly and obviously, painfully green-looking, and set her her narrow purple face in an expression that she hoped looked very important and casually businesslike.


Of course, the fact that this whole transformation happened on-camera slightly ruined its intended effect.

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There was silence for several long moments; not so much as to be completely awkward, but enough to make her wonder if maybe, just maybe, he wasn't even here. After all, this should-be-secret vault wasn't exactly a major information hub...


And then the sounds of gears and massive steel tumblers moving and grinding sounded, the vague electrical hum in the background changed a bit, and then, slowly, the grass-and-moss-covered rocky outer door began to split down the middle and swing open. 


If Ms. Sefir-Hull was an aficianado of classical fantasy literature she might get the impression of a 21st-century Hobbit hole, really.


And then, standing in front of her, likely towering over even her tall frame, and certainly out-massing it in all his armor-plated blue glory, was Cobalt Templar. 


"What exactly can I do for the Internal Revenue Service? I'm reasonably certain I don't owe back-taxes."

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  • 3 weeks later...



"Uhhh...hi. No, y-you don't..."


Blinking up at Corbin, Violet wondered if this was what it would feel like to give King Arthur a parking ticket.


Suddenly recovering, she squared herself even more and began hurriedly "Sorry, sir, but that's not all! Under IRC amendment..." Looking at the stapled sheaf of paper she'd fished out of her briefcase, the agent stopped dead. Through some dark miracle, the printing had skipped the title of the document.


Rallying, Violet thrust the stack of paper into the superhero's hand and went on

"...this one, establishing a superhero headquarters in public land owned by the federal or civic government carries an increase in applicable tax rates due to the risks of damage and injury to the environment, persons and nearby property. Freedom Hall doesn't count because it's on land owned by the Beaumont family, but since you have this setup under your heroic identity we need some kind of security in the event something horrible happens. I'm here to go over some paperwork with you to resolve this to your and my agency's mutual satisfaction. We're prepared to accept non-monetary exchanges given the 'mystical' nature of your superheroic wheelhouse."


At least this time the verbal quotation marks around 'mystical' had an implied "for lack of a better way to describe it".


Pausing as she searched the briefcase again, the purple woman squinted through the glare into Cobalt Templar's helmet/face and added "Uh, also you recently acquired something that I need to make a claim for. The-" swallowing hard, Violet clarified "-the Nightstone of Zefir In'Dego. My father."

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Cobalt Templar calmly and politely reached out and took the offered paperwork, scanning it over even as Violet continued to speak. He nodded at a couple of salient points, though his slight frown showed this was definitely unexpected news to him. When she mentioned the Nightstone, though, his gaze snapped up to meet her eyes, and for just a moment, blue fire flashed in them. 


"I must admit ignorance of that degree of regulation. I'd picked this part of the forests because ownership was unclear, and it's well away from typical hiking grounds, camping areas, and the like. This...facility...is meant to be secure, and fairly secret. How you managed to get here is actually interesting itself, but we can put that aside for now. Insert joke about the long arm of the IRS here. Ahem."


He smiles a bit to try and put her at ease, though how well it works might be up for debate. 


"I'm not sure how we'll quantify "non-monetary exchanges". I did help save the entirety of the Multiverse from falling into the fires of the Terminus once, but that was a while back, you probably can't accept a payment from a point prior to me establishing this location. Will I need to be an actual contractor for the government, or will my general heroic efforts suffice?"


Wait, saved the entire-


"Now, as for the Nightstone. I'm mighty curious how you heard about that. I've definitely tried to keep that particular fact quiet. I'm in the habit of guarding dangerous objects carefully, and not just handing them out."


Hm. He seems just a touch more serious now. Arms still crossed and all that. 

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  • 3 weeks later...



"The Service was thinking more along the lines of regular updates on how the land was being used, information on anything you collect that gives off energy that could affect the forest, cooperating with AEGIS if they operate in this area, that sort of thing." Fussing with her briefcase was the perfect excuse to not make eye contact, so Violet did that as she spoke, rustling and shuffling about ten times as much as she strictly needed to.


Withdrawing the necessary paperwork for establishing the superhero's base in the bureaucracy, the IRS agent said "Unfortunately, heroic deeds that preserve our way of life and reality as we understand it are considered implicit preconditions for this agreement. They are not explicitly required, but we understand that saving the hypothesized 'multiverse' is of personal benefit to both us and to yourself, so much that asking you to keep doing that would be thoroughly pointless. It's just expected, like that we won't harrass you later if you agree."


Shrugging as she adjusted her tie, Violet said briskly "Sorry, sir. I don't make the rules."


"The bit about how I found this place is fairly simple." Turning around and raising the hair at the back of her neck, Violet revealed several smooth shards of some amethyst-like gemstone embedded in the base of her skull, the skin around them marked with geometric purple lines. "These got into me when I was eleven, they let me...find things, see things others can't."


Turning back to face Cobalt Templar, the young woman smiled wrily "And I heard about the Nightstone because Zefir asked me to be at his trial. He wanted me to see him accepting the consequences of his actions, and not just running like he's always done. He's serving ten years for aggravated psychic assault and forced memory alteration. He's not an American citizen, so it'll be in Spain. Had a long talk with him, he mentioned you and the others, what happened to the magic rock his father gave him."


Folding her arms and squinting up at the fortress, the agent fell silent for a moment. Suddenly her dark eyes swiveled back to the wall of blue fire "I think I can show you I can handle it, and won't abuse its power. I want it to remember him by."


She looked at the ground "I threw away everything he or Mom gave me as a kid, sir."

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  • 2 weeks later...

Templar quirked an eyebrow and rolled one shoulder a bit as she explained the "payment plan".


"Well, I don't really have plans to expand this little nook. It's got living quarters so I can crash here, but it's primarily safe storage meant to be secret. As for energy, I can have a couple experts come out, but part of the shielding and wards are supposed to keep, ah, 'leakage', from happening."


He stepped to one side in the doorway and gestured to a simple but homey sitting room area.


"Come inside. I can get you a drink or something while we go over some of the specifics."


If no beverage was requested on her part, he'd go retrieve himself a glass of water and walk over to a pair of chairs with a coffee table in between, gesturing for Violet to sit.


"I'm going to be blunt, artifact details will be bare minimum, for security's sake. But if there's something that gets outside the vault walls, I'll let you know. As for AEGIS, I'm always willing to lend a hand, so long as this isn't me being drafted. I'm not signing myself over to the government. 


As for saving the multiverse as payment, well, it was worth a shot."


No one likes paying taxes, etc. etc. etc.


He examined the embedded jewel fragments with increased interest, though keeping a respectful distance. He sat back when she turned to face him again. 


"Probably not the most pleasant power source, but making due with what you've got, well, that's admirable. Wanting to do right by your legacy, do better than your father, that's even more admirable. But that Stone is pretty potent. It's not the sort of thing I just hand out. I'm not saying I won't; I'd be a hypocrite, considering I let someone use another artifact I've been safekeeping, at least for a time. But we'll need to ensure you're not trying to pull the wool over my eyes. Not sure what level of scrutiny you're comfortable with, though."

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  • 2 weeks later...



Gratefully asking for and accepting chilled water, Sefir-Hull nodded as she jotted down notes on her phone. "Leakage of esoteric energies can be a hassle, not to mention expensive. If you could get the experts to give our fellows at AEGIS a more detailed report, that would be invaluable."


"As for scrutiny," Violet leaned against the back of her chair and closed her organic eyes "I am prepared for whatever precautions you think necessary, sir. I understand the Nightstone makes the user able to fly, cloak themselvss in darkness, and attack

people with some mind of energy. What exactly will you need to make sure of? How will we do this?"

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  • 2 weeks later...

Cobalt Templar gave a vague nod at the mention of exotic energies.


"That's fair. I'll have the folks who helped me out contact AEGIS, and maybe give a once-over to the defenses. Never hurts to be prepared for eventualities, I've found."


As for the question about scrutiny, he had to sit back and give it some thought.


"Hm. For something like the Nightstone, my first inclination would be to go to one or two trusted experts with psychic powers, mind-reading, memory alternation, that sort of thing, that both of us would find trustworthy, and essentially have them 'check you over' to see if your intentions are true. Were this some other power source I might consider some more 'mundane' tests of one sort or another, but considering the potential damage to the minds of the helpless this Stone could wreak, I'm inclined to extra caution. We can discuss what these experts could and could not scan, if preferred."

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  • 2 weeks later...



Violet shook her head "No, I have nothing to hide and we can't be too careful." Taking another sip of water, she swished it around her mouth before swallowing to add "If there is something in me that'll make having the Nightstone dangerous, better to know rigt away. I just want to have it, I'm not planning to go out blasting people. Flying would be pretty nice, though..."


Drifting into silence, the young woman absent-mindedly looked at the forbidding stack of paperwork on the table. "We can do this after you've checked in with your expert associates, sir. Really..

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  • 3 weeks later...

Cobalt Templar was sifting through the paperwork, but wasn't really writing on any of it.


"Hm. I'm probably going to get one or two pairs of eyes on all of these papers anyway. This is pretty important business, so I want to make sure we're doing it right. I'm sure you've given me the right forms, mind you. I just like to be thorough when it comes to these things."


He set them aside for the moment and stood, waving for Violet to stay seated, at least for a few moments. He wandered over to a desk and pulled out a couple of pieces of paper, writing some things on them, before coming back over to sit down. He set the papers on the coffee table and slid them over.


"Hero names and contact information for a couple of trusted...testers. If one of them stands out we can start there and see what the best approach is. I really do appreciate you agreeing to these measures. I know they're extreme, but power carries a responsibility, a duty, to be cautious with it. If you decide not to use the stone, perhaps some of my colleagues can help us determine how to secure it so that it cannot easily be accessed or used by anyone."

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