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Avenger Assembled

Imma Bee (IC)

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On a clear August morning, Freedom Hall exploded. People on the street screamed in terror as gigantic insectile faces erupted from the windows of the headquarters of the world's greatest superhero team, the gouges in the side of the building erupting into great rifts that spewed forth dozens of gigantic bees, an apiphobe's terrible fever dream that erupted into the skies over the city, followed shortly thereafter by uncounted billions of regular bees that formed clouds in the sky over Freedom Hall thick enough to blot out the sun on the ground below.

Within minutes later, a bizarre figure burst from the middle of the bee-cloud and landed on the roof of Freedom Hall; his face and body hidden beneath thick, bulky-looking armor painted in black and yellow, antenna bouncing above his head as he raised a microphone to his lips, shouting as his voice came bursting from every radio within a square mile:

"CITIZENS OF BEEDOM CITY! TODAY A NEW ERA IS BEE-GINNING! I, THE BEEKEEPER, SECOND TO BEAR THAT PROUD TITLE, HAVE TAKEN FREEDOM HALL AS MY RIGHTFUL HIVE! I WIN! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! SOON ALL OF YOU WILL KNOW THE JOYS AND THE DELIGHTFUL STATE OF THE HONEYBEE! BUT FIRST, I DEMAND A QUEEN TO RULE AT MY SIDE AS LORD AND LADY OF BEEDOM CITY, THE FIRST OF MANY HIVES! GIVE ME FLEUR DE JOIE! IF SHE DOES NOT PRESENT HERSELF WITHIN THIRTY-FIVE MINUTES, MY BEE ARMIES WILL SCOUR THE CITY FOR HER AND YOU WILL FIND THEIR ATTENTIONS MOST...BEE-MUSING! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

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Having successfully made his egress from his young companions penthouse without waking the handsome young man Ace made his way to his car in the garage below. Just as he pulled onto the street the radio blared to life with the bee keepers message and the ageless hero looked to the skyline to see the swarms gathering already, "Bees? Seriously?" he asked no one in particular then shrugged, "At least i have a good excuse for skipping breakfast." he murmured as he flipped down the radio panel to contact the rest of the league.

"So it seems our own most beautiful flower has a fan with waaaaaay too much time on his hands." his voice sounded across the scrambled channel, "Lets meet up on the corner of First and Washington, there's a nice elm there Fluer." he suggested as the rest of the team had far easier access to fast transit than himself. With that he pulled away from the curb and headed to the rendezvous a couple blocks away.

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Dark Star was happily helping out at one of the labs when news of the explosion reached him. His first thought was to drop everything and head over there to check for anyone who was injured. But upon hearing the message, he had a slightly different attitude...

"I'm sorry Ace. I think I need to address something first," he replied over the waves as he rocketed across the city. He came to an abrupt stop 30 or so yards away from the Keeper. Dark Star was quite aware that apparetnly the Keeper had upgraded himself significantly. He just didn't care though he still had some formalities to deal with first. "You will never, ever get Fleur. It would be best if you surrendered peacefully...but I'd be happy to put you down the hard way though," he said honestly. This man's designs on Dark Star's fiance had ticked him off just a little bit.

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Stesha teleported home the moment the announcement finished playing, muttering curses under her breath the entire time. "I can't believe this guy, I swear I'm going to feed him his damn helmet, one piece at a time..." Bad enough when he'd just been hassling her, but now the whole city could be in danger? Why hadn't they just kept his crazy butt in jail where it belonged? She hurried into her costume, answering Ace's hail as she went. "Okay, I'll meet you there... wait, Dark Star? Where are you going?"

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Thousands of miles above the city, in the satellite headquarters of the Freedom League, Herr Doktor Viktor Archeville was at that moment engaged in a most unpleasant activity.

"... neununddreißig... vierzig... einundvierzig... zweiundvierzig..." The Doktor was hard at work in the Lighthouse's gym, focusing on his

I could be doing so much more than this useless exercising!

We would not need to focus so much on maintaining leg strength and muscle tone if you did not insist on hovering everywhere!

Me? You're the one who insists on flying everywhere, and get lost in feelings of childish glee when you do!

Perhaps I do indulge more than I should-

Pft, as if you knew anything about indulging...

... but at least I do recognize the deleterious effects, and take steps to prevent it. I would think you would be happy to see someone keeping our body in shape.

Oh, I care, but I resent being pulled and mangled on this barbaric equipment!

Then design something better. Seriously -- you could be designing and mentally testing dozens of new technologies, if you were not so focused on whining like a petulant child!

Child?! Why, you-

The Doktor's routine (and inner debate) was cut short by Ace's message. "Archeville here, I am on de vay. Dark Star, do not- oh, who am I kidding, you are probably already engaging de target even now."

One speedy change later, Archeville was once more clad in his familiar khaki pants, spidergoat-silk shirt, and armored labcoat. Using his Electromagnetic Screwdriver to act as coprocessors for and amp the power of his Gravimetric Belt, he teleported instantly to the corner of First and Washington.

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For his part, Heyzel was suitably horrified at the insectoid horror that had overtaken the Freedom League. He felt a great swell of pity for the man so mad as to appear before the city in that outlandish costume with those bizarre demands, but not so great as his desire to stop that man before his madness hurt any more innocents. He was already flying overhead the tree when Dark Star confronted the Bee-Keeper, having flown there at the speed of Heaven to make sure that the heroes of the city could unite together against the menace. "Ace!" he called from his post above the trees. "Dark Star has let valor overcome strategy!"

--

Bee-Keeper quailed briefly at the sight of Dark Star, but then rallied, an arrogant smirk on his face as he studied his former enemy. "Buzz off, ALIEN!" he spat, before raising his fists and firing wave after wave of bees at Dark Star! Dark Star was just about to dismiss the silly threat when he realized two things: one, the bees were outlined in black, shimmering energy the same color as his own body, and two, they were glowing white! "Bee seeing you!" the Bee-Keeper gloated, as the bees burst inside Dark Star's insubstantial body. They hurt!

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Ace frowned at that though it really wasn't too much of a surprise, "Right so strategy is out." He said with mild exasperation. "Heyzel back up Darkstar, if he's managed this he's gotten some new toys." he ordered before looking to Archeville and Fluer. "We'll need to find a way to disrupt the swarms, Maybe some kind of electromagnetic signal that will drive them off? Sonic?" He inquired of the doctor then turned to Fluer, "Or maybe some kind of bug eating flowers?" his expertise was strained as it was. "Fluer you should try and stay out of sight or he'll try and grab you and run." he added with a shrug not certain how well that would work even if she was willing and with Darkstar facing down the villain she probably wasn't, "I'll see if I can keep him distracted while you try and come up with something." He said finally and leaned into his car to pull out a few things that might prove useful.

Moments later he had managed a decent disguise of Fluer that should hold up to casual observation. He shot the real Fluer a quick wink, "Care to give me a lift?" he asked holding one hand out.

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Dark Star grimaced as they exploded, sending him flying backwards. He'd been hurt worse than this though. And he wasn't about to give just because this pumped up fool had gained some new toys. Not to mention, Stesha was on the line here. Nothing was going to stop Dark Star at this point. Nothing. He righted himself almost a third of a football field away. "I am now officially annoyed. You want to do this the hard way? Fine; let me try ripping those wings off..."

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"I'll lay low," Stesha said reluctantly, "but only as far as I can without endangering anyone. I know it's me he's after, but I'm not just going to stand aside and let other people fight to keep me safe. That is a good look on you though," she added with a quick grin. "By all means, let's get a move on," Taking the other Fleur's hand, then reaching out for the doctor's shoulder, she touched the broad trunk of the elm tree and transported them to the scene.

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Archeville had disconnected his Electromagnetic Screwdriver from his Belt when Ace laid out his (brief) plan, and began re-adjusting it. "I should be able to generate a tone dat can disrupt his control... unless it is pheromone-based, in vhich case I will need a bit longer mit a few moments to mix up someding from de items in mein pockets"

Bee-Keeper? Really?

Freedom City is truly filled with all sort of-

BEE-KEEPER? It was bad enough my day was wasted with exercise, but now this?!

... yes, okay, the new one is a C-tier baddie, but the original clashed with Centurion, repeatedly!

Oh, and that makes him worthy of facing me? Bah! Anyone with half a brain could give Centurion a run for his money!

Judging by the reports coming in, this new one is even more of a threat!

Just because he took over Freedom Hall doesn't automatically make him a huge threat; that place gets taken over all the time.

... yes, but how would you feel if you were the one to free them? And, not only that, but to do something the great and powerful Dark Star could not do on his own?!

... give me that Schraubenzieher!

"Okay, I dink I-" the Doktor began, suddenly pausing when he saw Ace put on the finishing touches to his Fleur disguise. "Are... are you sure dat is vise? I mean, even if he doooe-!"

The next thing the Doktor knew, he was outside Freedom Hall, courtesy of (the real) Fleur's teleportation.

A little warning next time!

Aw, did the trip upset your tummy?

Silence!

Although, once this is over, I would love to get a look at Fleur's abilities. I believe I still have some of those samples from Dryad I could use for comparison, and-

Hey! Focus! Fight time!

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Immediately upon arriving, Stesha crouched down behind a bush, trying to get a look at the situation. It seemed grim, with giant bees flying everywhere, not to mention scads of tiny bees, and the Beekeeper watching it all. She could see Derrick was already hurt, though he was battling back, and had to resist the urge to... she wasn't sure what, to get close and help somehow, or at least let him know she was there! That would be dumb, though, and now was the time for smart thinking.

In her agitation, it took her a few moments to notice that the trees around her were moving, swaying their branches and uprooting their own roots, moving like stiff old boxers warming up for a fight. Oh, it would just serve her right if the Green Man was here too! But when she explored them, she found no power but her own! She was doing it... but how? And how did she control it? Right now they didn't seem to be doing anything but standing guard, so she turned back to the task at hand.

As Stesha concentrated, gigantic flowers began opening across the lawn, releasing clouds of pollen into the air. This, of course, was enough to get the attention of even the most loyal bee minion, if only for a moment. And the sweet perfume that the flowers exuded carried one simple message, to attack their commander and free themselves to follow their beeish instincts!

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Flowers exploded everywhere, pollen and scent erupting in the car-sized faces of the gigantic bees! The vast majority of them were hit dead-on by the eruption of pollen, and soon they were shaking their heads and droning even louder, their massive bodies waving back and forth in the air as they hovered in place or made slow, lazy circles in the air. Frantically, the Bee-Keeper danced, waving his armored torso around in the air as his armor sprayed chemicals to speak directly to the bees around him. One landed obediently, giving him a worried look. It was surprisingly easy to see expression on the faces of the gigantic honeybees.

But some of the bees had _not_ been affected by Fleur's flower power, and soon they were moving into action, following the commands of their leader. Three of them surrounded Dr. Archeville, one in particular giving him the stink-eye from giant, multi-faceted lenses. Unexpectedly, the gigantic insect spoke! "INTRUD-ERZZZZ WILL BE ZZZZZTUNG!" And with that, it swung its huge stinger around and jabbed it into Dr. Archeville! The scientist was nimble enough to avoid being impaled, but not so nimble as to avoid the sting of venom!

At the same time, two more of the bees surrounded the fake Fleur de Joie, bypassing the suddenly mobile forest that was guarding the carefully hidden genuine variety. "THE QUEEN THE QUEEN! MAZZZTER WILL GIVE YOU HIZZZ ROYAL JELLY!" And with that, one of them reached down with a giant foreleg and neatly, delicately, scooped Ace-as-Fleur close to its gigantic, loudly thrumming and pollen-coated breast.

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Archeville was suddenly reminded of one of his first adventures in Freedom City, one where a large thorn came perilously close to piercing several vital organs.

But that hadn't been filled with acidic bee venom!

"Nnnnghh--!"

KILL! KILL! KILL!!!

No, wait, wait! These giant bees, they are intelligent! Simple minded, but intelligent! You cannot just slaughter them!

KILL!!!

... what are you going to do, stab the thing with the Screwdriver? Think, man!

... no... not stab: fry!

Despite the growing numbness, the Doktor still clung to his iconic Electromagnetic Screwdriver. Removing some of the safeties off the power source was easy, but leaving enough in to channel the power where he wanted it was trickier. But he was, after all, a Doktor.

"Dumme Bienen! Sie werden 'pop' jetzt!"*

Bottled lightning was unleashed, dancing between Archeville's techno-wand and the three gigantic bees on him. And as it did, he laughed.

* "Stupid bees! You go 'pop' now!"

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"AIEEEE!" The bee that had actually stung Dr. Archeville gave a satisfying shriek as the powerful blast of electricity rocketed through its insectile body, sending the gargantuan yellow and black bug crashing into the lawn behind it with an enormous thump. The other two bees, though, were unhurt despite the powerful shock they'd taken, and now with all their hairs sticking akimbo they glared at Archeville. "YOU ZZZZTUNG BBBBARRY!"

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The angel of freedom appeared beside the Devil's aviary within just a few feet of Dark Star in an eruption of holy light, casting his gaze around briefly as he sought to sort out the situation. When he had, he hesitated only a moment before the shield of faith appeared strapped to his arm, the sunlight gleaming brightly off the ancient symbols of his faith. "Strike quickly," he told Dark Star, "and I will guard you from any more of his attacks. Together, we can defeat the madman!"

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Dark Star didn't even acknowledge Angel as he flew up. He was far too focused on 'Stesha' as she was attacked and grabbed by a giant bee. his hands became surrounded with even more power as he drew it out, focused it. He thrust one hand toward the bee. "Buzz off!" Still looking at 'Stesha' (not that he needed to use his eyes), he thrust another massive surge backwards towards the BeeKeeper, without even seeming to look. "I said, YOU SHALL NOT TOUCH HER," he said with increasingly loud volume. And as if to match his increase in volume, the power he threw out seemed to increase as well...

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Dark Star's devastating blast sent the bee entangled with Stesha hurtling away into the side of the building, breaking bricks and making the tractor-trailer sized bee collapse unconscious to the plowed-up earth below. The bee who'd been flying next to the wounded one gave a horrified cry of "BBBORRIZZZ, NOOO! YOU MONZZZTERZZZZ!" Shaking a foreleg at Dark Star, the giant bee still flying closed in on 'Stesha' with renewed intensity. But tragedy was still to come for the giant bees, as the one guarding the Bee-Keeper hurled its massive body between its master and Dark Star's firepower.

With a single great SHRIEK, the massive bee went hurling over the Bee-Keeper's head, landing in the damaged Freedom Hall with another huge crash. At the sight of his wounded minion, the Bee-Keeper gave a horrible cry. "Noooo!" The fallen bee, its forelegs and head sticking out of the wall it had smashed open, added to the drama, buzzing weakly "ZZZOOO COLD....ZZOOO COLD...." Evidently the bees had their master's knack for the dramatic.

"You butchers!" cried the Bee-Keeper. "I'll show you! I'll show you all!" He danced a frantic dance, his armor blasting a palpable scent in the air, but the bees around him were unmoved by his scent-based pleas. "Ohhhh! This is just what my stupid therapist said would happen...I mean, I'll STING YOU ALL SO BAD, YOU'LL WISH I DIDN'T STING YOU SO BAD! I'LL GIVE YOU A STING YOU WON"T SOON FORGET!!!" And with that, he opened fire on Dark Star again, firing another devastating wave of energized bees at Dark Star. But this time, the angel of Freedom was there to take the hit for Dark Star!

But Freedom Angel threw his shield up just a little too late, and the bees hit him, sinking deep into his angelic flesh! As they sunk into his flesh, Freedom Angel felt some strange things happening, and the angel gave an unearthly yell as his white feathered wings suddenly warped and shifted, flattening out into terrible veiny insect wings, his armor and shield shifting to colors in black and yellow!

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Ace looked on in shock and horror as the transformation wracked Heyzels angelic form. Thinking fast he called out to the Bee Keeper, "NOOO, Just change him back and I'll go willingly." In his best impression of Fluers voice which despite being far more damsel in distress than the real Fluer ever was pretty good.

He deactivated his forcefield to further prove his point and seductively applied a fresh layer of lipstick. Turning to the nearby bee he pleaded, "I know we can stop this if you just take me to him." he laid it on thick, "Please?"

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Stesha crouched behind the moving trees, aching to help but not sure what to do. If she stepped out of hiding, whatever plan Ace was cooking would be ruined, and she could put herself in danger. But she knew Derrick believed that it was her in the Beekeeper's clutches, and she couldn't stand how upset he was. Hoping the Beekeeper couldn't tap the League communication frequencies, she contacted Dark Star. "It's okay," she murmured, talking quietly so she wouldn't be noticed. "I'm safe, Ace has things under control." She couldn't try to send a coded message or anything sophisticated like that, Derrick wouldn't understand. Hopefully the short message would be enough. Hunkering down behind the trees, she concentrated on making the flowers stronger and even more compelling to the bees.

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The bee dropped 'Fleur' in the Bee-Keeper's arms, bringing a terrible laugh from the villainous madman. "Bwahaha!" He shook his fist at Dark Star as he swept her up in his arms. "I have your woman now, alien! Soon this world will belong to the Bee-Keeper! Bwaha-what, what are you doing!?! Nooooo!" For even as he clutched the fake Fleur to his breast, twenty gigantic bees overwhelmed his defenses, punching him and smacking him around, battering the Bee-Keeper like a hornet intruding on a hive. "Ohhh nooooo!"

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These giant bees are intelligent! Good thing I lowered the amps on your electrical blast so that one was only knocked out, not killed!

... kiiillllll...

Archeville looked up, just in time to see Bee-Keepers blast meant for Dark Star hit Freedom Angel, and the winged hero's horrible metamorphosis!

"Oh, dis just keeps getting vorse und vorse...."

Is that what these giant bees are? People transmogrified, like what is happening to Freedom Angel?

Angel... bah! Freedom Eagle Wannabe...

... this is not the time for that!

There is always time for me to disparage the so-called 'supernatural'!

We must help him! But... those two are still on us!

They wouldn't be if you'd let me pump up the amps and fry them all...

They are clearly intelligent beings, I am not going to let you - oh! Eureka! Electricity -- electromagnetism!

"Vell," the Doktor addressed the two giant bees still on him, quickly adjusting his techno-wand as he took a few steps back, "as much as I vould love to stand here und talk mit you two fine, upstanding examples of Apis mellifera, I really must... be going! Heh, get it? Bee... going... "

The Doktor held up his Screwdriver, and a bright red and blue energy pulse flashed out from it. Metallic debris from the streets and from within the Hall itself lifted up and streamed towards the two bees on barely-visible lines of magnetic force, wrapping them (the Doktor hoped) in tiny metal cocoons.

"I haff been hanging around Jack of All Blades too much," the Doktor mused as he flew up towards Freedom Angel. "Okay, now to see vhat is going on here..."

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Dr. Archeville's cunning use of magnetism ensnared the bees as fast as a bee falling into amber, earning feet-kicking hysterics from the now-very angry bees as the mad scientist flew up to inspect the altered angel. Freedom Angel was in a bad way from the effects of the blast, his transparent wings buzzing with an almost deafening chorus. "Azzz he died to make men holy, let uzzz die to make men beeeee...." His voice was half-angel, half-buzzing insect, human eyes dotted with hexagons as he glared at Archeville.

"WRETCHED STINGER!" He shouted, his voice an angelic, insectile chorus, "THE WORLD WILL BE CLEANZZED....heeeellllppp..."

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Dark Star was torn. Despite his efforts, Stesha was still picked up and brought to the Keeper. Who was also still not blasted thanks to those giant bee minions. But Angel was...suffering. He couldn't leave a companion suffering but time was of the essence. He turned and shoved both hands into Freedom Angel's chest. He sent a wave of power deep into her fellow hero. There was a flash of energy as all the foreign poisons and taints were removed through Dark Star's cosmic power.

He gave a nod to the hero before flying forward to come close to a stop in front of the Keeper. Dark Star could do nothing...not while the villain was holding Stesha. He couldn't risk it. "Let her go," he said softly, barely constraining the foreign emotions that were threatening to boil up and out. Dark Star seldom felt fear and true anger even less. But at the moment, he had both in abundance...

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Dark Star's powerful blast seemed to pull the poison right out of the angel of Freedom's body, the venom falling harmlessly to the pavement thirty feet below as it dripped from his pores. Heyzel flapped his wings, his real wings, frantically, shaking the last of it off, as he shook himself like a dog washing away filth. That was...that was awful! With the poison gone from his mind, he reassured Dr. Archeville. "I'm fine, truly I am. That was...that was a humbling experience."

Under heavy attack from his bees, the Bee-Keeper, still clutching Stesha to his armored breast, said, "I'll zzzave you! We shall have our moment in the zzun together!" And with that, he turned and dived inside the ruins of Freedom Hall, his bees digging through the wall behind him in rage! Inside, Ace found a building honeycombed with, well, honeycomb, honey and wax everywhere, with the occupants occasionally visible in suspended animation inside the hexagonal cells along the walls.

"Do you like it?" the awkwardly flying Beekeeper asked 'Stesha'? "I did it for you!"

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'Stesha' covered the initial revulsion and horror at what had been done here with expertly feigned awe, "F- For me?" 'She' marveled, "I had no idea you were so brilliant and devoted..." 'She added huskily working one hand to try and caress the side of his armored helmet secretly searching for some latch to release and open the sealed armor.

"I admit at first I thought you were a joke." 'She' said with chagrin, "But now ... I See that you are beyond what any of us knew." With a coy smile she continued breathily, "I've never seen you in this light before and I can't deny the attraction despite everything."

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