Showcase: Arsenal Strikes, Chapter 1: The Gauntlet Thrown

by PaladinLgt

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The Los Angeles County Museum:

A woman in a tight-fitting blue costume slid down onto the main lobby of the museum from an overhead air duct. She carefully adjusted the goggles, pressing a small inset on the left side. “Arsenal to Base. I have penetrated the target, and I’m about to grab the merchandise.”

The goggles glowed, revealing the flicker of laser lights surrounding the main exhibits. The woman reached to one of the many pockets built into her outfit and tossed a handful of brightly colored mirrors onto the floor. The mirrors shimmered briefly before redirecting the security field, allowing a path to the exhibits.

The woman walked over to the exhibits and pulled a small glass-cutting laser from a utility belt. The exhibit case that the woman was breaking into contained several ancient Japanese weapons. She carefully grabbed the glass circle cut into the case and set it on the tiled floor.

“Base, could you explain why the boss wants this particular merchandise instead of some of the more valuable artworks? Never mind. I really do not feel like a lecture on respecting the culture that I am sure would come.” The woman waved one hand disagreeably in the air as she contemplated another lecture from her boss and father. She attached the weaponry to an odd piece of gadgetry pulled from the multitude of pockets sewn into her costume.

“Base, preparing to transport in five seconds. I am clearing the area now. Start countdown. Five, four, three, two, one, zero.”

The woman backed away from the weapons as she counted down. At zero, a sparkle and an odd hum generated from the gadgetry, which quickly surrounded the weapons, turning them first transparent, then causing a complete disappearance. The woman smiled as she looked at her handiwork. “Base, am I clear to exit in any manner I wish, too? Our employer did say that I get to have some fun after finishing the assignment.”

The woman nodded her head as Base sent an affirmative back through the radio set built into her costume. She deactivated the mirrors holding open the path through the laser beams, then stepped into one. The loud sound of alarms going off filled the museum as the woman looked on with amusement. Several minutes later, she heard the sound of the glass doors opening and the footfalls of the authorities rushing into the museum. Four well-armed officers with revolvers in hand swept into the room and aimed them at the woman.

“Put your hands up! This is the police!” one of the officers shouted as the others moved into position to cover each other. The woman smiled oddly as her goggles turned pitch black. “Are you certain you want me to put my hands up? I am not sure if you will like it if I do.” The woman slowly raised her hands as the police moved in closer. One of the devices in her costume went off with a brilliant explosion, filling the museum briefly with light.

The officers were blinded as the woman moved with precision toward them. Several wild shots flew across the room, missing the woman. A deadly smile crossed the woman’s face as she blasted the police with a gun pulled from a hidden holster. The temperature in the room dropped dramatically as layers of ice encased the police, pinning them to the floor.

The woman walked out the front door of the museum directly to the two police cars parked in the lot. She put away one gun and drew another. A wave of heat fired from the gun and surged to the police cars. The sudden increase in temperature halfway-melted each car before causing a fireball as the gas tanks exploded. The woman grinned widely as she pushed several controls on the sleeve of her costume. The hum of a well-trained engine came from the top of the museum as a sundial-shaped flying disk swooped into the air to hover where the woman was standing.

“I love the California air,” the woman said as she agilely jumped onto the disk. “Maybe next time I will get to play with a few of the members of Infinity Inc.” The woman aimed her heat gun at one of the painted walls and melted her name into one of them. “Arsenal is in town to have a wonderful time,” she said cheerfully to herself as she admired her handwriting. The disk flew into the air, carrying the woman away.


An hour later at the museum:

Ambulances had taken the four slightly frozen officers away to the Los Angeles County Hospital. The area around the museum was cordoned off with yellow tape. A handsome man in plainclothes was directing the investigation, giving the occasional order as a soft suggestion.

“It’s no good trying to get fingerprints, but see if you can recover any hair from around the displays or the air duct.” The man broke off as he saw his partner climb down from from the rooftop. He gave her a brief smile before motioning her over.

“Did you find what I thought you would find?” He glanced over at the wreckers hauling the two destroyed police cruisers away.

“The same pattern as the last four robberies. Some kind of vehicle landed on the roof and sat there for a while. Whoever the perpetrator was entered through the air conduit system by the roof vent. The locks were sliced in two by a very precise cutting instrument. I bagged it all for our friendly crime scene team. I would bet that it’s clean just like the other jobs, though.” She frowned as the wreckers pulled away from the front of the museum.

“Whoever is doing this has changed their usual methods. The other jobs weren’t as flashy as this one.” The man turned away just as a camera flashed. Several news vans had now pulled up, discharging reporters in droves.

“You handle the press while I go inside and see if we get a break on the case.” The man walked inside as the clamor of questions began.

Standing before the audience of reporters, he ignored all the questions thrown at him and got them to become quiet. “Let me make a statement that should cover all the questions you might ask. As most of you should know by now, a robbery attempt took place at the museum a short time ago. The local authorities arrived due to the alarm system being activated. The perpetrator first blinded the officers, then froze them to the floor. She made her exit out the front door, then proceeded to destroy the patrol cars and melt her name on the side of the museum. She escaped on what we believe to be a flying device. The local authorities called on the Special Crimes Unit of California to investigate the scene. My partner, Richard Benson III, contacted the DEO, who felt that the investigation would be better handled by the Special Crimes Unit. In conjunction with the local crime scene team, we are trying to ascertain the real identity of this Arsenal. If you have any further questions, contact me — Karrin Murphy — through the Special Crime Unit’s number. No other comments will be made at this time.”

Murphy turned and headed into the museum as the press started asking more questions. She sighed as the glass doors closed behind her. Her partner was busy looking at the floor while other police officers took photographs and talked to museum staff.

“Karrin, come look at these odd glass fragments.” Richard Benson III pulled out an evidence bag and scooped up some of the fragments. The bits of glass glittered as they slid down into the reinforced plastic bag.

Murphy, being careful not to disturb anything, walked over to her partner and eyed the glass. Somewhat sarcastically she said, “A veritable clue, Holmes. Now just rattle off who the perpetrator is, and we can all go home.”

Benson looked somewhat hurt by the comment before discerning the real reason for his partner’s mood. “Let me amaze you with my deductive reasoning, then. The thief came through that duct up there. The crime scene people have already checked for rope fibers, but again nothing. The thief jumped down from the twenty-foot drop and landed there.”

He pointed at the spot before continuing his thoughts. Murphy tried to pretend to be astonished by her partner’s discourse, but failed.

“The thief then somehow knew where the laser beams were.” Benson looked over at his partner and pretended her astonished look was real. They both enjoyed these little games of conversation but pretended not to.

Murphy raised her hand. “I would say the goggles she wore detected the beams. The reports from the downed officers all agree that she possessed odd eyewear. Go ahead and keep on with your deductions.”

Benson nodded his head before continuing. “She then tossed out some sort of redirection field that opened a path to the display cases. She sliced open a hole in one of the cases, removing the objects she wanted.”

Murphy started shaking her head. “All the reports from the officers on the scene say that the woman didn’t have anything in her hands when they entered. Of course, they didn’t see the gun she used to ice them, either.”

Benson growled at Murphy. “I have no idea what she did with the objects, either. She deactivated the redirection field, or it malfunctioned. I would say deactivation, though.”

Murphy watched the crime scene crew finish up their jobs before speaking. “I agree. She wanted the police to come. She has thrown down the gauntlet, so to speak, by doing it this way. Or else she is a nutcase who wants attention. Maybe both.”

“Can I finish? She stepped into the beam, causing the alarms to go off, and waited for the authorities to arrive. She made with the chatter as they surrounded her and activated some kind of flash device to blind them. She then pulled out a freeze ray, or she is a freeze ray. The blast gave the locals the cold feet as she stepped out of the museum. She then either used a heat ray or is a heat ray, blowing up the cars and melting her name on the wall. She jumped on her flying device and made a clean getaway.”

Murphy began to clap as Benson gave her a mock glare. They both laughed at the same time.

“We probably are going to have this Arsenal showing up again, or maybe she will head out of state and bother somebody else,” Benson said as he looked around the museum.

“I say we head back to office and wait for all the reports to come in. Let the locals handle the interviews and the info gathering while we analyze their data.” Murphy punched Benson in the arm. “And next time you get to talk to the reporters.”

Benson backed away and held up his hands. “You are the diplomatic one, and I am the background guy. It’s in my job description about not talking to the press piranhas. Let’s blow this place and head to the office, then. The high mucky-mucks will be calling, asking for results. At least it’s not an election year, or we would be having the press conferences about how we should have solved this terrible crime by now.”

Murphy and Benson made their way back outside, pushing through the cameras as the reporters shouted out questions. Benson shouted, “No comment,” as they climbed into a nondescript van and left the museum.


Special Crimes Unit Base of Operations:

Richard Benson III and Karrin Murphy had gone into the office that they shared. Benson was sitting behind his overflowing desk with his feet propped onto the top. Murphy was pacing back and forth in front of her own immaculate desk, occasionally stopping to look out the window. A comfortable silence existed between the two from their three years of working together. Finally, Benson put his feet back on the ground, causing Murphy to stop pacing.

“I am puzzled by what our thief is stealing. The first known job of our thief was when she broke into that office complex and stole some sort of antique cup. Then the next job was a mansion where she stole a World War II Japanese flag. After that, our thief stole a set of rings said to belong to an ancient Chinese warlord. Now the museum job, where she steals a set of swords that belonged to the leader of Japan before World War II. In none of the robberies does our thief show up on any of the cameras. The only reason that we can be sure it’s the same person is because of the vehicle marks on the roofs of all four and the method of entrance.”

Benson looked over at Murphy, wondering if she could think of anything new to add. Murphy shrugged her shoulders before resuming her pacing. Eventually, she decided to speak after ruminating a bit.

“I did some research on the objects, and you had better not laugh. The cup was said to be the Holy Grail. The flag was supposed to guarantee victory to whoever kept it on display. The rings, according to legend, gave the wearer extraordinary power. The swords gave the wielder insight to his enemy’s thoughts. Not that I really believe the stories on any of the objects.”

“I hate the really weird cases we get involved with,” Benson said, trying not to laugh. “Bad enough we have to deal with nutcases with high-tech weapons. Maybe we should contact those guys led by the Star-Spangled Kid. Slough it off on them, and we can get back to crazed serial killers.”

Murphy smiled, transforming her plain features into something of beauty. “You mean that Patriot guy who leads Infinity Inc.? He finally changed his name. You know, we could hit the streets and see if any of our sources know about this Arsenal.”

Benson grumbled about the idea of leaving the office. “It’s either too late or too early for our contacts to be out and about, Karrin. Lets just call it a night and come back here around ten or so. Wait a minute; tomorrow is Saturday. That’s going to screw up all the reports and such. Let’s call it a day and meet back here on Monday.”

Murphy smiled again as her partner jumped up from his seat. “Maybe the bad guys will take the weekend off for a change. I’ll see you Monday, then.”

Benson threw a few files into a worn briefcase as Murphy donned her jacket. They departed the office and headed down to the underground garage. After reaching the garage and waving at each other, they got into their separate vehicles and left.

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