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Avenger Assembled

The Bee-All And End-All

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Fall 2018 

 

The invasion was over, Freedom City was rebuilding and moving on with its life - even if most people had thought that life was going to come to an end. High Steaks had taken some minor structural damage during the fracas, not enough to shut the place down, but enough that keeping a regular movement of engineers, construction workers, and their equipment away from the tourists was just one of the many bits of sleight of hand that made life at the High Steaks interesting. At least until today. 

 

"Peter broke through with his pickax," commented Miranda, the tall, rangy Italian-American woman wearing the same orange hardhat and safety gear as the rest of her men. "If he hadn't had his line on him, he'd have fallen in-" She and Diamondlight were standing together at the edge of the substantial sinkhole that had once been the bottom of his lowest underground parking garage, her headlamp only partially illuminating the substantial cavern that the collapse had uncovered. Down below, they could make out other stonework that looked manmade - and definitely something more glittering than stone. Going down there would be quite a gamble. "You want me to call the Freedom League, boss?" 

 

 

It took Baxter some time to realize that the music was coming from the armor, still tucked away where he'd put it. He recognized the sound; the old Nokia that his uncle had wired into the suit a lifetime ago still worked and the suit probably still had enough power to make it work. But why would anyone be calling it? It had _not_ been part of the numbers he'd given out - but then, he hadn't always been the one in the suit... 

 

 

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Ever since the Terminus invasion brought Baxter back home, things had been odd. Not odd in that comically whimsical sort of way, like flying monkeys, but odd in that weirdly bizarre sense of deja vu ever since he slipped back into the suit. A revitalized spirit colliding with a rekindled spark of adventure. His sabbatical was never meant to be permanent, and Baxter knew it. That's why he moved half way across the country, where nobody would recognize him after he went public after the Collector incident. But he also knew it'd gone on far too long. Long enough to forget, at least for a time, what it really felt like to be behind the mask again. There was always an excuse: homework, dates, deadlines. Whatever.

But those days were over. And so here he sat in his parents' garage, right back where he started half a decade ago, tinkering away at his new pet project. The mechanical exoskeleton laid out on the impromptu work table was as bare and sparse as it could get, devoid of the guts and gizmos his uncles' own model boasted not more than a few feet away. He couldn't explain why he'd suddenly become so possessed over the idea of building his own battlesuit, but that was hardly holding him back. He had the tools, courtesy of Uncle Barry's old workshop, and the desire to bring the idea to fruition. What else did he need, right?

Deep into his little project, Baxter practically jumped out of his skin when an alien ringing jolted him to his feet, scattering tools to the concrete floor in a panicked clatter as it echoed all over the walls of the sealed garage.

"Jeez!" exclaimed the bee-themed avenger to no-one in particular as he shot out of his seat. Looking around through the garage for the source of the disruption, the Bee-Keeper tore through his uncle's toolbox, rummaging and tossing about the various odds and ends manically to no avail. Then he turned his attention to his own possessions, hunting through the boxes that his father had left littered about for years as the sound bounced around the walls infuriatingly. Again, nothing. That's when Baxter noticed it - the only other thing in the room he hadn't inspected. Slowly, his eyes narrowed on the mechanical backpack quizzically, his face etched with disbelief.

"No way."

Stepping over to the mechano-bee-suit, Baxter slid the contraption on with familiar ease, encasing himself in the comforting embrace of metal and the warm buzz of still-stirring robo-bees, fewer though they might be given the armor's drained status. What came next would either be a massive mistake, the first step towards a new awesome adventure, or both. With an unusual sense of curiosity, Baxter activated the source of the buzzing, trepidation and excitement meeting in a perplexing swirl.

"Uh... hi? You've reached the Bee-Keeper. How may I azzizzt you?" spoke the armored apian avenger in a mock retailer tone, one part wry, the other genuinely inquisitive and sincere as he waited with great interest to see who was on the other end of the old school cell line.

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He didn't recognize the voice on the other end - but he heard the tension in it and the pain that might have been suppressed, or recently shed, tears. When she spoke she had a distinct old-style Joisey accent, reminding Baxter a little of some of the old ladies from the neighborhood next to his. "Hello? This is a friend a' Brian Nisbet. Listen, I'm sorry if yer workin', but he's...he's in a real bad way, and he asked to see you. I know you been retired for a coupla years now but I know you ain't no welcher on a deal." He heard a breath, and then, "I'd...I'd fly fast, if I were you." 

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More than a few questions crossed the newest incarnation of the Bee-Keeper's mind, each of them a fleeting flash in comparison to the biggest and most prominent amongst them as the woman's thickly pronounced accent, rushed and desperate, flooded the comm channel of the old Nokia phone secretly installed into the battlesuit. Call it a hunch, but Baxter was fairly sure this wasn't going to be a luncheon social. Whatever was going on, it wasn't good.

"Where'zz Nizzbet?" asked Baxter without even a moment's thought, his modulated voice just as hurried and intense as the mystery woman's was worrisome.

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Diamondlight

 

18 hours ago, Avenger Assembled said:

"You want me to call the Freedom League, boss?" 

 

 

"I think the Freedom League have their hands fall right now. At least, to full to investigate a hole in the ground" answered August with a faint smile on his hands. "Besides which, where is your spirit of adventure?" he asked with his smile becoming less faint. 

 

"I don't like holes. Well, holes in the ground. Other holes...can be a different matter" he said deadpan. "Like a hole in one playing Golf" he added. "Why, what did you think I meant?" he said, faux shock on his face.

 

"But still, I can get my hands dirty here! Although a rope, hard hat and torch would be a good idea...." he added. 

 

So equipped from the stores of the High Steaks, the men working, and in the case of the rope, the nearest climbing sports shop, Diamondlight carefully descended, swinging said torch as he did. He hoped the place wouldn't collapse....

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"He's still at South Side. They're givin' him the hospice care now. There ain't nothin' wrong with him if that's what you're worried about. He's just old, and old men-" There was a distinct hitch in her voice as she went on, "old men die. Come real quick, I told 'em to expect you." 

 

-

 

Diamondlight's descent into the cavern beneath his business was easier (albeit more nerve-wracking) than he might have thought; it helped that it was a straight descent rather than an actual climb down a dangerous slope. Of course, this would also make a quick return trip rather difficult. The cavern down below looked like a mix of natural and artificial construction; stone walls and concrete mixed with corroded metal and rough-looking stalactites. There was equipment down here; cars and other things, looking long-abandoned, and a steel door against one wall that looked exactly like a bank vault's door.

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Profound relief washed over Baxter when the mystery woman revealed Nisbet wasn't in immediate danger, shoulder slumping as the tension melted somewhat. The grim air of finality was still pungent though, the unknown caller's urge for expediency a solid note on the original Bee-Keeper's pending mortality, and with it a pit began to form in the younger bearer of the battlesuit.

"Okay," replied the third Bee-Keeper, his voice devoid of its typical chipper charm and replaced with a modicum of seriousness. His heart went out for poor ol' Mr. Nisbet, his plight pulling at Baxter heartstrings like some sort of violent puppeteer. His head screamed that he should tell the older woman on the phone the truth; that he wasn't Barry Bowles. That he wasn't the Bee-Keeper she or Nisbet were probably looking for. But Baxter's heart had other ideas, instinct and emotion superseding logic as he scooped up the garage door opener, clicking it a little harder than was probably needed as the grating sound of rising metal suddenly filled the makeshift workshop.

"Okay. Yeah. Send me the address. I'm on my way."

And with that, the Bee-Keeper took to the air like a shot, darting through the garage doorway, into the sky, and streaking Southside bound as fast as his little robo-wings would allow.

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Diamondlight

 

"Man, this feels like the sixties"

 

He hadn't actually been alive in the sixties. But he liked the sixties. He wished he had been born in the sixties. Or had lived through it. 

 

Well, 2018 would have to do. It wasn't so bad, he thought with a smile. 

 

The bank door beckoned, but he was not in a rush. He took time to swing the flash light over the various antiquities and cavernous features, to see if he could try and place what they came from, and when...

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Diamondlight had gambled when he'd guessed the vintage of this place - but like so many of his gambles, it had paid off! The two or three cars down here looked like classic 60s sportscars - the sort of Mustangs and Porsches that anyone who knew anything about art remembered just from the glossy Technicolor pictures of other times and other places. Somebody had been working on them, though, making custom additions that had once been golden and circular if he was any judge, as if they'd turned the cars into some kind of sweetroll-themed vehicle. Or something else yellow in rounded layers; it was hard to tell after fifty years of decay and rust. Conditions weren't perfect by any means but the floor beneath his feet was dry, even though the air here was reasonably fresh despite its depth. The vault door was set in a hexagonal-shaped opening in the cave wall, and come to think of it there were other openings in the cave wall too, some blocked by debris and some not, 

 

 

There was a woman waiting on the steps of the old retirement home for the Bee-Keeper, a middle-aged woman who looked only about old enough to be Brian Nisbet's daughter, even though as far as Baxter knew he had no such thing. At the sight of the armored figure, the blonde woman looked relieved. "He's gonna be glad to see you," she confided as they walked inside the home. "He talks about you all the time, how yer honoring his legacy. I'm Anna, by the way," she said. She tensed up, ever so slightly, as they walked inside - but kept moving, making eye contact deliberately with all the staff who were carefully not looking at yet another costumed person visiting Brian Nisbet.  

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"It'zz a real pleazzure, Anna," hummed the Bee-Keeper in response, still garbed in the hunk of metal that was his costume as they strolled through the retirement home. It was an odd thing meeting the original Bee-Keeper finally; on the one hand, he was geeking out super hard, but on the other this probably wasn't the best time to be geeking out about meeting the progenitor of a villain-slash-hero legacy given the circumstances. All this time and he'd never really even considered it an option; the man was a former supervillain, and one who was particularly good at his craft. His uncle had carried on the legacy, sure, but Baxter had taken it in a different direction - one, he'd just assumed, Mr. Nisbet wouldn't be so keen on.

 

It was Anna's quip about Nisbet interest in him, though, that really sent a pang through his heart.

"He talkzz about me?" the Bee-Keeper repeated, bewilderment and shock crystal clear even through the modulated helmet. "Wow. I, uh... I juzzt thought that going the hero route wouldn't really be zzomething Mizzter Nizzbet would be glad to hear."

Now he felt like a real jerk.When he first started out, it was all about cultivating a positive image for the Bee-Keeper name. Turning things around. In a weird way, it was selfish - though it wasn't intentional, Baxter'd alienated an old man because he was too busy assuming he didn't want anything to do with this young upstart, let alone help his cause with the press.

"Geezzz. What do I even zzay? I mean, we've never met, but he'zz bazzically the entire reazzon I'm even who I am," chirped the armored apian, turning his visor--clad gaze back to Anna. "You know Mizzter Nizzbet. Any tipzz on not looking like a total spazzz in front of him?"

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"Wait a goddamned minute," said Anna, peering up at the Bee-Keeper with a sudden look of suspicion in her eyes. "...are you not the same goddamned Bee-Keeper who bought the rights to the name from Brian Nisbet for fifty thousand dollars? So he could finally get the good nurses and not have to live on charity and selling off his old things?" Her voice was a low hiss, semi-public hallway or not. "Because if you stole that armor from that man, and you flew all this way making me think you were the real deal..."

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"Whoa, whoa, whoa!" exclaimed Baxter, hands shooting up to the sky in mock surrender. "Firzzt off, c'mon, language. Izz that really nezzezzary? Zzecond, yeah, you got me. I'm not the zzame Bee-Keeper. When I got your call, you zzounded crazzzy dezzperate. Zzo of courzze I was gonna fly down here!" the Bee-Keeper continued, trying his best to explain the extremely awkward position he'd found himself in without making a bigger scene that he probably already was. "Third, I guezz you hadn't heard what happened to Barry."

Lowering his hands, Baxter prompted the battlesuit's helmet to retract. There was no Barry Bowles on the inside, probably much to Anna's chagrin, he wagered, suddenly stuck with some young buck looking back at her instead of a grizzled gadgeteer. "I wasn't trying to lie to you, ma'am. Honest. My name's Baxter. Baxter Bowles. I'm the third Bee-Keeper; extra justice, hold the villainy. Barry's my uncle and, uh, I guess who you were probably expecting. How can I put this..." Baxter rubbed the back of his head in thought, brain fumbling to find the most tactful way to elaborate. "He was behind bars for a while after getting into some trouble with the Freedom League. He got help, straightened himself out. He's doing way better now, by the way, but he's... I guess you could call it retired. Lives in a peaceful place super-far away with some giant bees. Tinkers with old projects here and there, y'know, to keep himself sharp. Hasn't put on a costume in years."

 

Baxter paused for a moment, surveying the woman's face for any hint of empathy, letting the moment really sink in.

"Look, really, I swear I didn't mean to lead you on. You just... I don't know. You sounded genuine. It just felt right to come down here. And short of some kind of trans-dimensional communicator and teleporting my uncle from across space or something, I'm the only Bee-Keeper you've got," continued the striped avenger as his own voice threatened to rise above a stage whisper, sincerity rife in his plea even as he laid down the harsh truth. "I want to help -- to at least meet the man behind the legend. Let him know his legacy is in good hands. My uncle thought it was the right call for me to pick up where he left off. Shouldn't Mister Nisbet get to decide if I'm up to it, too, Anna?"

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Diamondlight

 

For a moment, admiring the old classics, August wondered about trying to pull the cars up and refurbishing them as antiques. Such class! The wonderful lines! Yes!

 

But not now, no. Other things to think about. 

 

Like those doors. Hexagonal? That didn't fit with any past style he could recall. Although when it came to the sixties, anything was possible with some ultra-cool designer frying his brain on psilocybin. 

 

It would be tough to shift. He might work out four or five times a week but he wasn't Phalanx, or Stalwart or any other super strong super hero. Anyway, he decided, he would give it a go. 

 

Concentrating a moment, he formed a blue-purple shimmering light in his hand. A crowbar made of Daka energy. And so equipped, set to work trying to open the darn door...

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Anna frowned, looking uncertain for a moment, then relented. "All right. I guess I got no grounds to complain about somebody goin' straight." She made a short noise at that, then said, "You gotta understand, Brian Nisbet is the closest thing in this world I had to a father since my parents passed. He never had no kids, he never had any family at all except his work. The thought of somebody triflin' with his legacy...well it just don't sit too well. Come on, he'll be glad to see you." 

 

Inside the room, an old, old man was waiting for Baxter. He'd never actually done the math on how old Brian Nisbet was but he'd started out as a supervillain in the 1940s and retired around the time Baxter's parents had been born. He was the far side of 90, and looked it. He was old, stretched out in bed, the hair on his head gone and his dark skin wrinkled, a faint fuzz of white beard on his face. There were tubes up his nose, and he didn't rise to greet Baxter upon his entrance. "Brian," said Anna as she entered, raising her voice to rouse Nisbet. "There's somebody here to see you..." 

 

Brian Nisbet turned his head slowly and slowly, slowly smiled at the sight of Baxter. His voice was old and papery, like the skin on his hands as he reached over and took Baxter's hand. "Bee-Keeper. I have a mission for you.

 

-

 

The vault was hard to open, requiring Diamondlight to exert himself to his utmost, but there was evidently no security - whoever's place this was, they hadn't feared robbery. Inside was a statue with a fearsome mein, a four-armed goddess that stood a good eight feet tall. She carried a mace, trident, sword, and shield in each hand, and her gagra choli was marked with large black insects Diamondlight couldn't immediately identify. The goddess wasn't alone in here; she was joined by something far more mundane - sacks of currency stamped with the mark of National Bank of Freedom. The air in this room was thick and cool; and from the faint hiss as the door opened, it hadn't stirred in here in some fifty years. The inside of the room had the same hexagonal shape as its door, and come to think of it, if you stripped away the dirt and decay outside, wasn't the whole complex marked by those hexagons? 

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Granting Anna a solemn, knowing nod, Baxter understood now why she'd been so upset about his appearance. This was as important to her as it was for Brian Nisbet. He couldn't pretend to really know how she felt inside, but the least he could do was his best for Anna and her would-be father figure - and that, at least as far as he was concerned, was what being a Bowles was all about. He'd make this right, one way or another.

 

Without a second thought, the young Bee-Keeper took the aging legacy by the hand, a faint but earnest smile painted across Baxter's face. It was heart-wrenching to see the original Bee-Keeper in such a state, helpless and deflated; a figure once larger than life now laid low by the passage of time. Swallowing hard, it took the armor-bearing hero a second to consolidate his thoughts as the former villain made his request. A heartbeat passed before Baxter squatted down to meet Brian at as close to equal eye level as he could muster, careful not to squeeze the frail old man's hand out of fear.

 

"What can I do for you, Mister Nisbet?" he asked earnestly, his voice genteel and curious.

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"My last hive is in trouble. I heard those metal things wrecked it." He paused to take several breaths, then said, "There are secretz there no man may know - save the Bee-Keeper." He fixed his rheumy gaze on Baxter and said, "I need you to go to my last hive and fix it. Once you do, all that's there can be yours..." He coughed, a dry rattle in his throat, and settled back onto the bed. Her face set and her eyes a little damp, Anna took Brian's other hand - it was obvious she wasn't leaving him any time soon.

 

She looked over at Baxter and said, "I think he means the place they built that big casino thing over, High Steaks they call it? Yeah, that's one," she said, after a moment's consideration.

 

"Calendar Girl," Brian whispered suddenly, looking up at her with a smile. "Won't you sing for me?" Without even looking at Baxter, Anna began to sing in a strained voice - 

"I love, I love, I love my calendar girlYeah, sweet calendar girlI love, I love, I love my calendar girlEach and every day of the year..." 

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Diamondlight

 

Some Hindu Goddess. He couldn't remember the name. Maybe justice. Or money. Hell I can't remember everything....he was nevertheless annoyed that he couldn't place her. 

 

The money however...that was interesting. He thumbed through a few notes. The National Bank of Freedom? He never dealt with that bank. He didn't bother too much with the accountancy these days, but he did when he was growing his business. He knew the nooks and crannies pretty well. The Bank no longer existed. 

 

And...now he thought about it, some of the pieces of the jigsaw fell into place. 

 

Could it be? in the sixties the original Bee-Keeper had stolen a big hoard from the national bank of Freedom, and it had never been recovered. 

 

Until now?

 

He gave a grin of excitement. This was some discovery! The old cars, the hexagonal architecture...it must be. The Hindu Goddess didn't quite fit though...at least to his recollection. 

 

Was she some kind of guardian? there was not any security as far as he could see. Surely the Bee-Keeper had taken some precautions?

 

A hint of danger? Hmmm....best to be alert. 

 

And in any case, there might be someone to help put the final pieces together. 

 

Satisfied with his own cleverness, he turned to go back to the High Steaks, intent on finding the modern day Bee-Keeper!

 

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For a moment - just a single, solitary moment - Baxter felt the urge the say something. Anything, really. The Bee-Keeper had given him a task, and yet, it felt like so much more than that as he watched Anna begin to sing. It was enough to send pangs through the young avenger's heart; hearing it was even more devastating. He'd never actually seen anything like this; this terrifying show of mortality. He needed to leave, just like Brian and Anna needed this - whatever this was. The last thing this somber meeting needed was another person getting all misty-eyed.

 

Without a word, the Bee-Keeper took his leave, re-donning his helmet with conviction. And so out the door and into the sky he went, barreling through the sky towards the only clue he had as to Brian Nisbet's final hive: the High Steaks Casino.

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Upon his arrival, the Bee-Keeper found the casino open for business. This wasn't really the best time of day, or year, for tourism but this was the sort of establishment that never really closed down. It wasn't hard to guess where he needed to go; the High Steaks had been built years after Brian Nisbet's time and so if his headquarters was here, it had to be somewhere underneath the building. An open loading dock, a garage, and down past carefully placed orange traffic cones got him down to where a crew of construction workers was standing around a deep sinkhole in the building's sub-basement. His suit told him he was down as far as he could go and still be inside the building proper; which meant there had to be something beneath his feet. "Hey, you can't come down here!" A tall, dark-haired woman who looked like she was usually friendlier than this had interposed herself between Baxter and the hole. "This is private property!" 

 

No sooner had she spoken, though, than Diamondlight, a handsome, broad shouldered man in good shape, with mid length blonde hair and peculiar silver blue eyes, climbed out of the hole behind her! 

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Diamondlight

 

"Whats this, a wasp?" asked Diamondlight in a friendly manner, running his fingers through his hair and stroking his chin. He have a broad grin. 

 

"No no! A bee! The beekeeper, actually, if my memory serves me adequately. And I believe it does, for who could forget the beguilingly brilliant bastion of bees that is the beekeeper!" he said,  voice a blend of smooth and dramatic. 

 

He shook the beekeepers hand. 

 

"Zoss. August Zoss"

 

He gave the O.K. Signal to Miranda. "Don't worry Miranda, we have here an upstanding citizen of Freedom City. Always welcome in the High Steaks, especially as we may have a bee problem to deal with. Looks like he is the perfect man to help!"

 

"Can I get you anything? A drink? Coffee? A medium rare steak?" he asked the Beekeeper politely, with a little bow. 

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The Bee-Keeper hadn't expected to get stopped - honestly, the thought hadn't even crossed his mind! But the woman manning the construction was obviously gutsier than she looked, as her stare alone was enough to halt the armored apiary avenger dead in his tracks. He could have plead his case that he was on a super-important semi-secret mission, maybe, or even tried to smooth-talk his way through and down into the hole below. But she was just so intimidating! It wasn't every day an average citizen stood up to someone in a massive battlesuit with all the gumption of a Freedom Leaguer.

 

Thankfully, the answer came waltzing in right behind him, saving Baxter from what might have otherwise been an extremely embarrassing situation. Suave, charismatic, and obviously a fan of alliteration for bonus points, August Zoss really did know how to make an entrance. Baxter was clearly at a disadvantage.

 

"Thankzz for the zzave there, Mister Zozz. Azz tazzty azz a zzteak zzoundzz, I'm actually here on buzzinezz," affirmed the Bee-Keeper, meeting the man's handshake with equal vigor. "I'm here to track down the lazzt hive of the Bee-Keeper - the original Bee-Keeper, not me. There'zz zzomething wrong with it, and it'zz... uh..." Baxter stammered, trying to find the right words for the situation at hand. "... it'zz really important I figure out what'zz wrong with it. And I'll give you three guezzezz where it might be," he added, nodding slightly towards the hole in the middle of the casino-slash-restaraunt.

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Diamondlight

 

"I don't think a guess is needed" replied Diamondlight, pointing straight at the hole. "I'll give you three guesses where I just crawled up from!" he added, brightly, his suspicions confirmed. 

 

"Its like a time warp back to the sixties. Which is no bad thing, actually. More importantly, I think its where the Beekeeper...ah....the old bad one, not the awesome new one, of course....yes, where the old bad Beekeeper stashed his loot. He raided a bank back in the day, and nobody every recovered the stash" he explained. 

 

"Shall we go investigate?"

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Well, shucks. It looked like Zoss had beat him to the punch in at least partially exploring the underground heist-slash-time capsule. Then again, from the looks of things, the guy was either a higher-up or outright owned the place, so it was mildly unsurprising that someone of his position wouldn't know about the massive hole and the Bee-Keeper's secret treasure within. At least that meant he wouldn't be going in alone (or blind!), so that was a definite plus.

 

"No time like the prezzent, I guezz," agreed the third of the Bee-Keeper line, casting a longing glance towards the deep depressing that would inevitably lead to the last of the Bee-Keeper's legacy. "Let'zz do the time warp and zzee what we find back in Zixxtiezzville."

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Diamondlight

 

"If only..." sighed Diamondlight, whistfully. 

 

He was always rather sad when he thought about the sixties. Sad that he missed it. 

 

But hey, he could savour life now!

 

So resolved, he brightened up "Sure thing, Beekeeper! Onwards and downwards, as they don't say!" he quipped. "I wouldn't mind a lift though, if you can carry me!"

 

He kept his flashlight, of course. But getting flown down, on bee wings no less, was an opportunity he simply could not miss!

 

"And I think there will be more than the sixties down there! And I'm not talking the fifties or seventies, either. The old Beekeeper might have left a few surprises in store protecting his cash!"

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"Pleazze keep your armzz in the upright pozzition," replied the Bee-Keeper. It wasn't so much a scooping motion as it was a solid, confident hoist as the bee-clad man picked Zoss up from beneath his arms, carrying the sterling gentleman down into that dank, dark hole with all the ease one might pick up a cupcake or a tablet. Alas, the buzzing of wings was hardly quiet, frantically flapping metal echoing through the halls of the original Bee-Keeper's last mysteriously masterminded caper. Thankfully, Zoss had his handy flashlight to lead the way, making the decent much more bearable.

 

"I hear you on the whole trap deal, but if thizz izz zzo old, I'd me zzuprizzed if any kind of booby trap even zztill worked," continued the armored avenger, face silently taking in the sights with wondrous bemusement. He'd known Brian Nisbet was a clever man, but this was on much grander scale than he'd even considered. In another life, the man could have made a killing as a magician instead of a bee-themed super-villain. "Then again, I think it'zz zzafe to zzay weirder thingzz have happened; like finding an underground time capzzule that'zz preserved the zzixtiezz for the lazzt fifty yearzz. But hey! Gotta think pozzitive. I mean, azzide from zzomething already being wrong with the hive itzzelf, what'zz the worzzt that could really happen?"

 

Immediately after saying that, Baxter wished he hadn't. There were three big rules to being an effective superhero in his book: always do the right thing, always put the innocent first, and never - NEVER - say that things couldn't get any worse.

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