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Some Background

The government is very good at catching people. Even the few who can keep away from them are forced into a life of running. But there is a new threat that all of Earth's governments face together, Dave the Teleporter. He was born in southern Russia and ever since he learned he could teleport, he has been on a crime wave, stealing billions worth of products from around the world. The united nations agree that he must be stopped. Sadly, only after agreeing to stop him, they realized that they have no idea how to. They tried handcuffing him but he disappeared, they tazed him and the barbs fell to the dirt, they shot at him but he teleported away before hitting the ground. They have requested the help of Earth's greatest minds to come up with a solution.

A Few Details of Dave

  • We believe that before learning of his abilities Dave may have served in the Russian military.
  • Based on noted left behind, Dave believes now that he is a guiding finger of god and steals only what is needed to keep himself alive and help poor people, like robin hood but on a world wide scale.
  • Because he believes this, Dave is apparently pacifist and refuses to kill but he will harm people in self defense.
  • Dave has learnt that he is only able to teleport to places that he can see or has seen before.
  • He wears a balaclava at all times so no one has seen his face.

The Rules

  1. The Governments have become desperate and are willing to spend whatever it takes to bring Dave into custody.
  2. They do not want to kill Dave, they just want to bring him into custody.
  3. The solution cannot result in any human casualties.

Using the above information how can the governments of Earth catch a teleporter?

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    $\begingroup$ @JDługosz this question is kind of similar though worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/12634/… $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Apr 28 '16 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ I'll throw that to you: since he can teleport to place he has seen before, the loophole isn't that you have to change the places he has seen, the loophole is that you have to make him forget them. If he can't remember, then how can he possibly get there? Wipe his memory clean. It's not ideal but at least he won't be able to teleport further than eyesight. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 28 '16 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ Have you read Jumper? $\endgroup$ – Tin Man Apr 28 '16 at 21:30
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    $\begingroup$ @AmiralPatate We don't really have any reliable way to give someone total amnesia, other than just turning him into a vegetable, and given they want to keep him alive that doesn't seem like an acceptable solution. $\endgroup$ – Vakus Drake Apr 28 '16 at 21:34
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    $\begingroup$ Yes, there is even a movie version of Jumper where they do just that. $\endgroup$ – kojow7 Apr 28 '16 at 22:09

14 Answers 14

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There's no fool-proof solution, however you will eventually catch him - if you're patient. You see, Dave is screwed, because he has to get lucky every time, however the government(s) only needs to get lucky once

Set up traps in places he is likely to show up (stun grenades, sleeping gases, etc.). When the weight of the floor, or the temperature of the room changes, zap him.

Dave is now your prisoner. You can probably keep him from teleporting away by maintaining him in a coma, or otherwise drugged such that he has no control over his powers. Of course if you do this you won't be able to interrogate him. So here's another proposition:

You can then inject a tracker in him, such that you will know where he is even if he manages to escape. Just in case you're afraid he might be able to teleport while leaving the device behind, however, there's a dirtier trick you can use.

Fit the tracker surgically on one of his arteries. Inform him that if he teleports without it, his artery simply severs inside his body and he dies within seconds.

As long as he values his life Dave won't dare move out of place.

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    $\begingroup$ What if teleporting causes the tracker to stay behind? $\endgroup$ – aebabis Apr 28 '16 at 21:51
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    $\begingroup$ @acbabis - Do his clothes and wallet stay behind when he teleports as well then? I'll worry about it when the OP mentions it as a requirement. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 28 '16 at 21:53
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    $\begingroup$ "they tazed him and the barbs fell to the dirt". It sounds like Dave gets to pick and choose what goes and what stays. $\endgroup$ – aebabis Apr 28 '16 at 21:56
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    $\begingroup$ @acbabis - first he has to know that the tracker is in there to begin with. Also, arguably the tazer prongs are outside his body. Also, the tracker can be fitted surgically on one of his arteries. He teleports without it, his artery simply severs inside his body and he dies in seconds. $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 28 '16 at 22:01
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    $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM first he has to know that the tracker is in there to begin with. Fortunately for Dave, he is reading this thread... $\endgroup$ – Michael Apr 29 '16 at 1:10
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Make him come to them:

  • Poison his food or drink. Antidote only available from the authorities.
  • Insert a highly addictive rare drug in his food or drink. Further supplies only available from the authorities.
  • Take hostages. Of course the authorities don't want to kill Dave: he is unique and they want to examine him to find out how teleportation works. But ordinary people are ten a penny.
  • Bribe him the nice way. Broadcast a message to the world publically committing to provide fresh water for everyone on the planet, or whatever is most likely to appeal to Dave's benevolent ideals, on condition he reports in.
  • Bribe him the old fashioned way. Money he can steal for himself, so offer beautiful women (all highly trained agents but that needn't be made explicit), companionship, prestige, the chance to stop running and live openly in a beautiful house.
  • They could even try just asking nicely.

Later edit: It has been pointed out that taking hostages violates The Rules. So let us replace it with

  • Make it clear to Dave and the world that he is doing harm. Theft ultimately harms society.
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    $\begingroup$ Oops, sorry. Either I didn't see the 3rd specification or it was put in while I was writing my answer. And you know, even a selfless man can get tired of running. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Apr 28 '16 at 19:56
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    $\begingroup$ On looking at the edit history of the question, I see that the specification that the governments would not kill to bring Dave in was always there and my staring past it is further proof of my warped mind. There is still the possibility of threatening hostages with harm short of death, particularly if the harm can be presented as a necessity imposed on the authorities by Dave himself. E.g. "While Dave keeps stealing the batches of anti-AIDS medicine developed at enormous expense it is no longer economic for Pharmaco to keep working on AIDS research. Sorry." Actually that one might be true. $\endgroup$ – Lostinfrance Apr 28 '16 at 20:34
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    $\begingroup$ People don't have to be taken hostage & threatened with death to be annoyed by a government - just raising their taxes or charging fines may be enough to bother them or Dave, or convince them to help catch Dave. And it gives another potential target to watch for Dave popping up to give them money too $\endgroup$ – Xen2050 Apr 28 '16 at 23:22
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    $\begingroup$ If I were Dave, I wouldn't go for #4. There's no way for me to know for sure you'll follow through on it, and given my radical ideology, there's probably no way to make me trust you, even if you do something that would convince a more rational, level-headed person. $\endgroup$ – Kevin Apr 29 '16 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Kevin: Well, asking nicely is always worth a try... perhaps noone did that yet! $\endgroup$ – Layna Apr 29 '16 at 10:00
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Back in a D&D campaign we had an opponent who was fond of teleporting attackers into our abode. We solved that by placing furniture and other obstacles at the spots where we believed they might teleport into. The downside of this, given that the government doesn't want to kill Dave, is that it will almost certainly be fatal if he teleports into a table or other large object. So keep the obstacles as low as possible.

(Eventually our enemies started scrying the spot first to ensure it was safe, and we followed up by using invisible obstacles. And that ended the teleport attacks)

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Presumably Dave has friends, family, known associates, buyers for his ill-gotten goods etc. so good old police work can find him. And presumably he has to sleep from time to time.

So I'd find out where he sleeps, and deploy an anaesthetic gas. Dave inhales the gas in his sleep, and is taken into custody in a half-comatose state.

Makes it hard to read him his rights, of course.

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  • $\begingroup$ You only need to read his rights if you intent to use what he says at a trial. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 28 '16 at 19:49
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    $\begingroup$ @AmiralPatate Well, yeah, that's the joke. If the world's governments are all out to get you, hoping for legal proceedings is probably naïve. $\endgroup$ – Flambino Apr 28 '16 at 19:54
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You seem to be asking two questions:

  1. How to bring him into custody. Does he have to physically have visited a location to teleport or can he just have seen it TV?
  2. How to keep him in custody.

Firstly,

If he has to physically visit a place before he can teleport to it, his teleportation is really only an escape mechanism. So, for him to rob a bank vault, he has use conventional means to get inside the vault, then just teleport to escape he would be fairly easy to catch. If the the later, it's harder but more mundne.

...stealing billions worth of products from around the world.

Actually, catching a teleporter is not that much different than catching other major criminals. They don't actually catch criminals in transit very often.

Most criminals get traced through their fences i.e. the people who buy stolen goods or launder stolen money.

You can't actually physically steal something worth billions because it would be something like a building or an air craft carrier. All the large amounts of money in the world are electronic. But suppose he teleported into Fort Knox and stole a brick of gold one at at a time (or whatever he can carry) assume they don't catch him at the Fort Knox, the gold is useless unless he can exchange it for something, so he will need a fence. Same for bucket loads of cash like the drug dealers pile up by the literal ton, they still have move it, distribute it somehow and get it where they can spend it.

Either he steals things to convert them to fungible wealth or he steals them them to use i.e. weapons. If the former, he has to have contacts, in the later he has to have a place to stash them. Either way, he will generate patterns in financial systems. If he plays Robin Hood, he can be traced by his attempts at distribution. Whenever he interacts with others he becomes vulnerable, just like any other criminal.

Once they zero in on him, they just stakeout his likely locations and then when he appears he his taken down with Tazers or other less lethal systems. Once he's down he's placed in a chemical comma for an indefinite period. If they need him awake eventually, they would surgically attach a nuclear powered tracker and radio controlled system within his brain that would knock him unconscious upon command or if the system detected it was not longer in the containment area.

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Bring him to your side. Let him play whatever hero he wants to play, forget these pesky billions.

Really, teleportation means a lot. If one gets his hands on its basic principles, he could remotely destroy anything without leaving a trace - teleport a bomb to a city or teleport a city into space. The governments would fight for Dave tooth and claw, mostly because no government wants others to have such a power.

So, ask him what he wants and give it to him. Explain that he could get drugged by any hobo, fall into the hands of terrorists, and become a weapon of mass-destruction. Explain that you, a Government, don't need dangerous weapons for yourself - you already have nuclear bombs and it's pretty much enough. Explain that the teleportation-based technologies would improve much more lives than one man jumping between banks and hobos.
And study his teleportation >:]

(By the way, it's really uncommon to refer to David as "Dave" in Russia).

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  • $\begingroup$ Love this idea, also keep in mind Dave is just what we call him, his real name could be anything; Abram, Alexander, Alexei, etc $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Apr 28 '16 at 20:13
  • $\begingroup$ I expect there would be some limitations to what he can teleport, such as him needing to travel with it, and being something he must be able to carry. Teleporting a city into space seems too much for a regular teleporter… $\endgroup$ – Ángel Apr 29 '16 at 0:43
  • $\begingroup$ @Ángel - for a regular teleporter, yes. But for a mad scientist who understands the laws of physics that allow teleportation, it would only be a question of the required power. And since even badly injured Dave can teleport himself, a power station should be able to teleport millions of Daves. $\endgroup$ – user8808 Apr 29 '16 at 9:19
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The hard way

He stole and redistributed money/goods. Make a point to recover every penny. If you can do that, it makes his actions pointless.

Also, arrest everybody. Pin aiding and abetting on them on those who offered him shelter or help. Hold those you can't pin anything on for as long as you legally can, even if it's for 48 hours. If you systematically arrest everybody he knows, he'll realise his actions do more harm than good. Just to be clear, I'm not talking about arbitrary arrest, I'm talking about upholding the law. He's a criminal, aiding him is against the law.

Eventually, people will realize he brings more harm than good when they get arrested and are left with none of what he brought. To seal the deal, offer a bounty for his capture. Sure, it's unlikely that a random civilian will capture him. However, that will turn enough people against him that he will have to think twice about doing his thing.

Then wait for him to break. Make sure that he understands he will have to run away all his life, no family, no attach, not now, not ever. Running is exhausting, he'll pay the heavy price for it. Eventually, there will be nobody left to care about him. Eventually, running will be more and more difficult and exhausting. Eventually, he will reach a breaking point.

The good news is that if you remove his will to fight, he may not even try to escape afterwards.

The easy way

Offer him a chance to use his talents legally. Essentially, give him a badge and a gun. I'll be serving justice, but from within the frame of justice instead of acting above it. Offer him a full pardon while you're at it. That will offer him a chance at a normal life, i.e. without running.

Offer him a chance to further science. Appeal to his higher ideals. Teleporting can do a lot of good to society, probably more than illegally acquired goods. This is a chance to do good for the whole world rather than a few people.

You will likely have to treat him like a decent human being rather than like a lab rat. That may hinder your progress, but slow progress is better than none at all.


Consider offering him a chance to do some good on your term if you catch him, rather than offering the prospect of being dissected in a dark room. Make his downfall more appealing than his continuous running. Honestly, if you aren't willing to kill him or mess his brain up, you'll have to wait until he surrenders of his own free will. It's all about finding a reason why he should do so.

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Set up spies as poor people in need. (use a profile of the type of people he normally encounters)

Set up traps and trackers on some common items he steels. (use a profile of the type of thefts he is guilty of)

Track down who he is, and every place he has ever been.

Then set up a trap either at the point of theft, or at the point where he gives the goods/money to the poor. The trap should be a chemical he breaths in, or one that seeps in through the skin. It should also attach a tracking device through the same means. (probably a radioactive isotope of nano machine)

The chemical should render the thief unconscious in a way that he doesn't notice, or for a length of time that allows the governments to find him if he does notice and teleports away.

Once unconscious he must be kept that way until the governments of the world have destroyed or drastically changed every place he has ever been.

Never again let him see a place outside his prison.

All this is moot if he can teleport to a place he has seen a picture of.

Then he needs to die, or be kept in a coma.

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  • $\begingroup$ How would you destroy every place he has ever seen or been to before? Every coffee shop? Every museum, or monument? Good luck $\endgroup$ – AndreiROM Apr 28 '16 at 19:50
  • $\begingroup$ All the governments of the world are behind this. That's alot of destructive power. $\endgroup$ – PCSgtL Apr 28 '16 at 19:50
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    $\begingroup$ The area the place was would still be there though, $\endgroup$ – TrEs-2b Apr 28 '16 at 19:51
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    $\begingroup$ I doubt France would chop down the Eiffel Tower so that one guy can't teleport to it. It would be easier to erase his memory. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 28 '16 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ Governments say these things but they don't really mean it. Tourism is 7% of France's GDP which is a lot more than a few billions. I doubt Obama will level New York because the guy spent a week-end there. I also doubt you'll have much luck convincing the Iranians if Dave visits Tehran. It just takes one landmark. $\endgroup$ – AmiralPatate Apr 28 '16 at 20:19
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How can we catch a teleporter?

Based on the proposed rules and his personality, I suggest BAIT

He obviously can return to a place he's stolen from before, but does not have incentive out of fear of capture or having the valuable items moved. To be more clear on this point, his initial crimes would lead stores, banks, etc. to renovate after a theft, and not allow strangers to see in to prevent his future crimes. This would likely be a well-established pattern for Dave by the time the nations are working together to capture him. He would need to scout out new targets - through unsuspecting means. He may be the only one of his kind, but crime prevention has been around a long time - along with creative ways to accomplish crime.

With the wealth of the world at your disposal, make sure that several places he has stolen from before are restocked - if he's smart, he'll smell the bait, so it has to look like it's a secret or have some other ploy to entice him to return. It would be especially nice if his theft appears to go unnoticed each time, so that he lingers and perhaps starts to do it on a regular basis.

Second, all travel requires a path. Monitor the baited locations and other areas of the world. Before he arrives and after he leaves, something is happening to create a path. With all of today's technology, it should be possible to understand what is happening, even if we didn't understand how. With several such stations it's possible you could even monitor his teleportation from one baited/monitored location to another. Monitoring could even include markers, transponders, etc. that he carries with him unwittingly. Patterns will emerge.

Also follow the money. Money has serial numbers for a reason. Banks would certainly cooperate in providing tracking (which they already do). Similar identifies could be placed on other goods. Monitoring has to be done with patience - otherwise he will grow suspicious and change his tactics.

After a while, the scientists will learn something about his special abilities and probably how to limit or even control his teleportation. Make the path longer/slower/smaller/heavier/hard to navigate/painful/excessively hot/etc. Confuse him by altering the destination. Create a loop so he returns to the place he tried to leave.

Worst case, they will gain a lot of information about who he is "helping" as a modern day Robinhood. Among him and his co-conspirators, after constant monitoring, fear and stress, an opportunity to "make a deal" will emerge even if the ability to control his gift doesn't.

One last point: since no one has identified "Dave" from his nefarious activities, it's possible no one actually knows who he is. He could even end up on the team trying to "catch" him. I think that would be easy to identify (like Superman - how come "Joe" is always gone when "Dave" shows up???). Still, it seems possible and could make this pursuit more interesting...

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    $\begingroup$ Not only can he return to a place he's previously robbed, it's most likely that he will, since he can only teleport to somewhere he's seen before. He can't just jump into Fort Knox or any given Swiss bank vault if he's never been there before. I'd imagine that the more intelligent banks would stop leaving their vaults' outer doors open during business hours, as many do currently. (Often only bars separate the bank customers from the cash, and you can see inside when it's just bars.) $\endgroup$ – Darrel Hoffman Apr 28 '16 at 21:55
  • $\begingroup$ Yes - I edited my response to make it more clear why "baiting him" isn't so easy by the time the world's nations are working in concert to catch him. $\endgroup$ – Jim Apr 28 '16 at 22:14
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He need to get inforamtion about poor people and money storages somewhere. Spoof that information with fake. So he will transfer fake money to fake poor people. That is nice prison, he don't know about it, so he can't escape, and you even can use him for your purposes.

It isn't that hard as it seems at first. He can telepot, but can't read minds. So you only need to anlyse people he helped (like they all in same group in facebook or live in getto), so you can find Dave information chanel.

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    $\begingroup$ But finding Dave's information channel is useless if you want to take him into custody. Your solution only avoid Dave steals money, do not bring him to jail. $\endgroup$ – Gianluca Apr 29 '16 at 9:41
  • $\begingroup$ Depends on what we mean by jail. If jail is place that person can't leave, well that does it (we can limit his jumps by neede places). If it is certain place with orange robe and bars on window, well we need to keep him in coma for that. If it is place where he doens't want to be, same to previos. $\endgroup$ – Матвей Кучеров May 4 '16 at 8:49
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I would have suggested hostages but @lostinfrance already suggested that.

So, two more suggestions, in order of practicality/reliability.

Double Agent: Send in a double agent to gain his trust. That double agent can then get information out of him by pretending to be helpful. If the agent is medically trained he could even offer to help Dave understand his powers by examining him, then send his findings back to HQ. The best case scenario is that the agent becomes aware of one of Dave's limitations/weaknesses with minimal effort.

Nowhere to run teleport: Station agents at all the places in the world he's known to be able to teleport to. A global CCTV system would also be helpful unless he knows some deserted places he can jump teleport to.

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I think this Dave guy here, he's also some kind of speedster. If he keep running away so fast, he could probably kill himself due to his cells being shattering with air.

Maybe we can create a portal or something like a beach to another Earth or Planets, when he appear, we trapped him into the breacher and close the breacher and never open it. How is it?

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  • $\begingroup$ I know there's a lot of cool stuff on this site, but as far as this question asks, the "governments" only know what we actually know, i.e. they probably don't know how to make portals to other planets. (That's why they need to capture and study Dave!) $\endgroup$ – wizzwizz4 May 1 '16 at 19:00
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    $\begingroup$ @wizzwizz4 i thought governments of that country have many scientist. Turns out not so much haha $\endgroup$ – Infinite Loops May 1 '16 at 19:14
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This seems like a classic 'forest-for-the-trees' situation: Dave's ability to teleport is infinitely more valuable than anything he could steal and redistribute, and not just in monetary terms, but strategically. Any adversarial relationship with him will forfeit his cooperation, which as far as anybody knows is essential. So you (the governments of Earth) will eventually have to reformulate the problem: How to convince Dave to cooperate with (all of) you.

Governments seem somewhat crazy to most of us most of the time, but in fact they can be bitterly rational when their survival or future is threatened. Being excluded from access to teleportation technology is exactly such a threat (and it eventually will be technology, unless it's literally a gift from a literally divine source). I believe that eventually nearly every government would do almost anything to participate, even to the extent, horror of horrors, of treating their own citizens with kindness and respect.

In fact this scenario is similar in many ways to the scenario 'super-advanced aliens arrive on Earth and offer us Galactic Membership - if we can pass test of being civilized.' Indeed, it's easy to imagine that eventually it is discovered that Dave is actually a wacky tourist from galactic core, or is Galactic 'test administrator', or etc.

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  1. Set up expensive decoy items to lure him in, with hidden GPS and knockout gas.
  2. Once an object has moved, the GPS info will have changed, and it emits invisible odorless knockout gas.
  3. The item will then send out a quiet radio signal to tell everyone where it is.

Upon arriving at "the secret lair" they might find other valuables that have been taken.

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protected by Community Apr 29 '16 at 13:08

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