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Raveled

Leave Only Wreckage, Take Only... (IC)

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As the Silver Spider was cursing her momentary lack of skill, she heard a whistling cutting through the air. Her sixth sense alerted her and she tried to dodge it, but she felt a number of hard impacts on her back and legs, like golfball-sized buckshot. Behind her, the frumpy woman in the sweater had shredded the garment, revealing a tight bodysuit cross-crossed by bandoliers studded with ball bearings. "Damn heroes," she spat. "Popping up out of the woodwork! Where were you hiding, you scrawny little thing?" The metal-framed glasses slowly deformed and warped into a spiky metal mask, and several more ball bearing detached from the belt and began to orbit the woman slowly.

Starlight was put off by her inability to hold on to Sirocco, but she reasoned that she wouldn't be able to do anything to the man while he was in that state. So instead she turned to focus on the large man who had bumped her before, who was now surrounded by a boiling mass of dark tentacles. "Those who clothe themselves in darkness only make themselves more inviting targets for the Light," she shouted, firing off another strong blast of magic. It missed the man by a mile, though, smashing into one of the dioramas and scattering the pieces everywhere.

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Armed, armored, and ready for action, Baxter was feeling the rush - that thrill that came with the mask. It was an intoxicating thing; the weight of responsibility and righteousness intermingled with anonymity that made it possible for ordinary citizens to become extraordinary within the right circumstances. Circumstances, of course, that Freedom City was more than rife with.

With renewed purpose and the sound of conflict echoing throughout the halls of the Hunter Museum of Natural History, the Bee-Keeper flew from the innards of the public restroom, eager to leave behind the remnants of his former identity atop the toilet and hidden behind the locked stall in order to do what he'd come to love since acquiring the mechanical marvel: dispensing justice and protecting the innocent. Sure, it wasn't always in that specific order, but now wasn't the time for debate; it was a time for action! People were in grave danger from that acrobatic freak, and it was up to the Bee-Keeper to deliver the welts of good upon his foe before he could strike again! Absconding through the air with all the bravado and adroit flair of an angry honey badger, the armored apiary returned to the scene of the crime where the guards had just been beaten down so viciously.

Unfortunately, having left for only a moment had caused the scene to develop in very peculiar ways. Chief amongst these were the strange alien-thing in the gold armor, the web-motifed heroine, and the eerie tornado-esque creature that looked like a much less horrible effect from Twister. It was like a smorgasbord of powered ne'er-do-wells! But where there was a menagerie of mostly unidentifiable individuals, there also came a distinct lack of familiar faces. Sure, the guards were still slumped over, but where had the other three ladies capered off to? What happened to the flippy fellow who'd caused so much havoc? Whatever; all that mattered right now was putting all of these crooks behind bars... though, to be fair, there were quite a lot of them.

"Hold it right there, evildoerzz!" came the cry of the Bee-Keeper, his heavily modulated voice only as stern as his wavering confidence in the situation, panning from the betentacled fella with the jar and to each assembled patron present, hands upraised and arms outstretched in anticipation of having to blast each perceived threat as the hero of the hive made his threat. "Give yourzzelvezz up, unlezz you want to feel the zzting of juzztizze!"

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Starlight frowned at the collateral damage her blast had caused to the diorama. She reigned in her power, and the next blast was thinner, more contained, more of a cutting laser than a pummeling beam of light. It arrowed in on Hooded Menace, who raised one shadowy tendril to block it -- but the light cut through the shadows, scoring a smoking burn across the large man's hoodie. He looked down at the wound, pain and anger and surprise twisting his features. "What... what is that? Why does it hurt so much!?" With a cry of rage he slung his shadow arms at the airborne heroine, but inches away from her body the light suffusing her rose to fill the room, and the shadows could not touch her. Hooded Menace fell back a step, raising one hand to cover his eyes while the other cradled the jar. "What are you?"

The dust devil touched ground, slowing and dissipating to reveal the flamboyantly dressed acrobat. "An annoyance, is what she is. And you, too, Bee-Boy," he said to Baxter. "Why don't you all just get down, and not get back up again?" With that he flashed, moving far faster than anyone could hope to follow. Starlight and Baxter felt blows falling all over their bodies; Starlight tried to defend herself instinctively, but a particularly heavy blow to the back of her neck caused lights to dance in front of her eyes for a moment. All around the heroes, the assembled security forces cried out in pain and shock, falling to their knees or curling up in fetal positions under the assault.

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Silver Spider shook her head and growled at herself for letting herself get sucker-punched like that. The young woman, using the web-shooter on her left wrist to pull her into the air, tucked into a quick roll and tried to aim with her right for her opponent's eyes. She unleashed a short stream of sticky chemicals, which missed her attacker by a good several inches. Landing in a defensive crouch she mentally grumbled, Okay, once this is over I'm checking the calibrations on these things. There is no reason I should have missed this badly twice.

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Just after the Bee-Keeper was treated to a dazzling light show and the former entity of whirling death returned to the more readily discernible form of the insane acrobat. Surprise and shock paved the way for the armored avenger as the situation unfolded, the mentally unstable criminal's persona having been largely unchanged despite the macabre form he seemed capable of producing. This guy wasn't just nuts - he was a super-powered cuckoo! But at least there was good news: the armored thing that was all aglow at least didn't seem malevolent. Regardless, the stakes had been raised, and it was time to act.

Before he could even retort with a quip of his own, the Bee-Keeper's eyes went wide as the tornado-man made his move. It was fast; so fast Baxter almost didn't see it coming, the flurry of strikes assailing him from what seemed like everywhere at once. All he could do was throw his arms up around his head, the plonking of blows resounding forcefully with each consecutive connection made against the heavily armored teenager. It hurt, even behind the protection of the Bee-Keeper Armor. Baxter's ears rang as he struggled to keep himself safe; but he knew he could take it, teeth grit and muscles clenched as he steeled himself against the rain of attacks. But what hurt more was the sounds of the guards; their telltale bellows of pain earning more than just a little of the hero of the hive's ire as the whirlwind of conflict embroiled the scene. His attempts at serving as an impromptu bodyguard within the museum had fallen flat in the wake of the acrobat's attack; the fact alone that the villainous cur felt fine with attacking the lightly-armed security force enough to make the dark-skinned boy's blood boil in anger, metallic gauntlets seizing up into heavy-duty fists.

"Annoyanzze?!" the Bee-Keeper snapped back after the brunt of the attack had subsided, unflinching insectile helm hiding the bitterness locked on his face as he took up an aggressive stance. "I'll zzhow you an annoyanzze!"

Raising a gauntlet and releasing the death-like grip of his clenched fist, the Bee-Keeper III steadied his aim and dialed up the blaster's settings through the on-board GUI, watching as the little animated bee shifted its disposition from mildly grumpy to a fine shade of furious red behind the helmet. With concussive force and an audible hum of energy, the Bee-Keeper braced his wrist with his spare hand as a pair of blasts rocketed out with a thunderous cacophony towards the now-solidified foe, their destructive force causing tangible pain to shoot up Baxter's forearm; there was no finesse or control, just raw power and the intent to take down the baffling loon hurting innocent people for whatever reason. It didn't matter; whoever this guy was, he was going down. Hard.

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Ricochet leaned out of the way of the spray of webbing and caused another few steel ball bearing to rise from her bandoliers. "You should learn a little control and accuracy," she hissed, sending another flight of spheres at the white-clad heroine.

Sirocco paused in his frenetic motion, frowning slightly as he noticed his blows having no affect on the apian avatar. He set his jaw and moved in for round two when the Bee-Keeper's blasts caught him upside the head. The flamboyantly-dressed speedster went flying through the air, crashing against the far wall and falling to the ground in a heap. He rose to his knees and tried to get farther, but after a moment his body gave up the ghost and he fell to the ground, still and unmoving.

Starlight, for her part, was emboldened by her wounding of the man in the hoodie with the boiling shadows. She fired off another blast of light energy, but this one went wide again and shattered some of the tile floor. She set her jaw and resolved to use less power and more finesse from now on.

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GM

Hooded Menace stepped back from the blast of light. He handed the jar off to a tentacle of shadow and gathered more of the boiling darkness between his hands. He threw it overhand and it bounced once, leaving a sticky patch of something not entirely unlike tar, and landing at Starlight's feet. Whips and tendrils of shadow shot up and grabbed the heroine, trying to drag her down, but once again her aura flared up. Many of the tendrils were burned up, but she still found herself wrapped partially in shadow and blackness.

Ricochet called up another ball bearing, but considered Silver Spider carefully for a moment. The heroine was reeling and seemed out of the fight for the moment. So, after considering her options, Ricochet sent the projectile careening towards Bee-Keeper III, bouncing off the hero's helmet.

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"That'zz right! Feel the zzting of juzztizze!" the Bee-Keeper shouted as Sirocco hit the ground, his modulated voice an apt amalgam of self-praise and weariness.

Reeling from the sudden strain, arm throbbing from wrist to shoulder, the Bee-Keeper III was nevertheless pleased with himself for having so thoroughly decked that villainous cad who'd started this fiasco. It was, after all, one less foe for the hero of the hive to worry about. That left him with... well, still quite a few, and even in his winded state, Baxter was beginning to piece together the puzzle of whom was friend and who was foe. Unfortunately, his concrete thesis on the who's-who of this particular rogues' gallery was answered for him as something small, shiny, and round came bounding towards his noggin at an unspeakably dangerous speed! With a reverberating crash as metal collided with metal, the Bee-Keeper reeled from the devastating blow, shaking his head thoroughly as the ringing in his ears intensified. It was a miracle that the armored hero was still standing, his head a throbbing cacophony of pain alongside his still tender limb; he was tired and battered, but still clinging to the fight like some bitter old crone through one more winter.

But the scene hadn't gone unnoticed by the hero of the hive, despite his despairingly battered state. The man with the weird tentacle-things seemed greatly interested in that jar one of the spindly shadow-limbs was holding, but what for? It was just some old thing from yesteryear, little more than historic significance to... well, Baxter didn't know, but someone probably. He had a million questions, but now wasn't the time; right now, he had more dangerous fish to fry. Having effectively earned his ire, the Bee-Keeper III turned his attention to the sphere-flinging woman clad in the bandoleer, her previous assault having nearly knocked him for a loop in his moment of glory. She wasn't certainly giving the spider-themed girl a run for her money, given the way things looked; maybe he could help even out the playing field a little bit by throwing her off her own game!

Aiming his other gauntlet-clad wrist towards the femme fatale, the Bee-Keeper took a moment to steady himself, his woozy disposition making it more than a little harder to focus on the dangerous villainous assaulting him. With a click, one of the many minuscule robot-bees loaded itself into the wrist-mounted launcher, and with another the tiny titan of terror was fired from the chamber stinger-first, its needle-like appendage secreting an unsettling concoction of sickening chemicals straight towards the armed-and-dangerous crook!

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At the last moment another steel ball whirled off the bandolier and deflected the robo-bee. She sneered at the buzzing battlesuited battler, but she slipped closer to Hooded Menace. "Come on, boss-man," she hissed. "You've got the goods, time to be getting while the getting's good!"

Starlight didn't give the shadow-wreathed criminal a chance to respond to Ricochet. She shot out another thin beam of light and though the shadows pinning her to the ground tried to pull her arm out of alignment at the last moment, it still scored a burn across his face. He howled and buried his face in his palms, stumbling around sightlessly. Starlight allowed a thin smile to cross her face. "Lay down your weapons," she said, "and I can promise no further harm, villains!"

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Silver Spider shook her head, the blurriness in her vision from the last round of metal spheres impacting her head fading, as she pulled herself to her feet. Okay, so the w.e.b.-shooters seem to be off. Time for plan B, she thought groggily.

Letting loose a stream of the fluid from her wrist-mounted weapons, she pulled back on the semi-elastic line and sent herself hurtling at Ricochet feet-first. The heels of her costume's boots connected with the woman's midsection and using the momentum, Silver altered the course of her swing to fly backwards and drop behind the display cases running down the middle of the hallway.

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Ricochet wasn't expecting such a frontal assault from the spider-themed heroine, and the blow knocked the wind out of her. She staggered over to Hooded Menace, grabbing the man's shoulder and leaning on him heavily. "I think," she gasped, "it's time to make tracks, boss."

Hooded Menace lowered his hands from his face, revealing an angry burn that was nevertheless already beginning to close up. He glared at Starlight and yelled at her, "It's not over, gold warrior. We'll meet again, on my terms!" With that the shadows rose, boiling angrily until they obscured the entire first floor of the building. Only the Bee-Keeper's eyes could pierce the darkness, and he saw the two figures growing less and less distinct until they were indistinguishable from the surrounding murk.

Starlight spread her arms and with a mighty pulse sent her aura rushing through the building, chasing the shadows away. When the fog cleared, though, none of the villains were to be seen.

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Silver Spider blinked her eyes rapidly to try and clear the spots from her vision from the brilliance of Starlight's light pulse. When her sight was clear she noticed the jerk with the ball bearings and her accomplice with shadowy tendrils were gone. Their last companion however remained where he had fallen, still unconscious.

Thinking quickly, the woman checked the fluid levels in her current cartridges as she moved over to the lone thief. Not wanting to give him a chance to escape she unloaded both across his prone form, leaving only his face exposed. Turning to look at the other two superheroes she raised a hand and said somewhat awkwardly, "Salutations."

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Winded and wheezing, Baxter could only look on as the shadows engulfed the fleeing culprits; the mysterious jar that the tendril-brandishing fellow had been so precariously balancing between his conflicts with the other two heroines vanishing along with them into the inky darkness. Regardless, the situation had been defused, and the Bee-Keeper - while uninjured - was feeling the exhaustive effects of pushing the suit beyond its intended limits. From finger tips to his shoulder, his entire left arm throbbed with malicious reverberations; each pounding of pain a reminder of his brash endeavors.

But those endeavors, despite some soreness, had proved fruitful: the bouncing bandit assisting the woman and her shadowy accomplice had been dealt a swift blow of justice, and the remaining guards were now safe from his wanton acts of malicious violence. The brunt of the ordeal was over now, and the danger had passed. Grateful to see the spidery girl wrapping things up with the man who'd started this little fiasco, it was clear that they were of a heroic jib (even if one of them didn't have much of a face). Then again, who was he to judge, given his creepy bug-like appearance?

"Izz everybuzzy okay?" inquired the Hero of the Hive, content with the way things had worked themselves out. Sure, it meant studying wasn't going to happen today, and that he might be bombing that history test, but at least everyone was in one piece; albeit worse for wear. Only after seeing to the injured museum security guards does Bee-Keeper breath a sigh of relief, resting his good arm atop his insectile helm as he let his body relax. After picking out as comfy a spot as he could next to one of the remaining dioramas, Baxter slumped down against the display's base, knees bent and held high as he rested his back against it.

"Haha. Thought they had uzz there for a zzecond. Phew," chimed the formerly villainous Bee-Keeper, throwing a friendly hand-wave towards the remaining heroines before moving on to his own introduction. "Bee-Keeper, by the way. Nizze to meetcha."

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Starlight stayed at attention for a long minute, not wanting to be caught off-guard by a surprise retaliation, but before long it was obvious that they had retreated in truth. She relaxed slightly, floating over to the downed security guards. She touched each one, and as she did so a bit of the light and energy of her aura passed to the men and women and they began to pick themselves off the floor, rubbing wounds that were healing rapidly and shaking off the unconsciousness. "I shall heal," she said simply. "I am Starlight, and I apologize. I should stand between the world and the bearers of the Shadow."

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Silver Spider rose from a crouch next to the remaining villain after double checking her binding. Glad her eyes were hidden behind her mask, she glanced over the Bee-Keeper's costume, impressed with the craftsmanship of the powered armor. Noticing him favoring his arm she asked, "Is your arm okay? You seem to be in some pain."

Seeing Starlight healing the injured guards, the arachnid themed heroine breathed a small sigh of relief. Her medical knowledge was little more than enough for basic first aid and the thieves seemed to have done some pretty severe damage.

To one of the guards she asked, "Do you know the average response time for emergency services?"

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Watching with quiet enthusiasm, Baxter bore witness to Starlight's curative powers. With but a simple touch, whatever injuries had afflicted the security guards of the Hunter Museum of Natural History vanished gradually, the guards themselves rousing from their pain-stricken stupor in the wake of the turned tide. The armored teenager couldn't help but feel a twinge of envy at the nigh faceless entities' powerful boon, limited himself to what the Bee-Keeper Armor could and could not achieve through force of arms and technological advancement. But a boon is a boon; and while it might not be capable of the medical marvels this golden-clad individual was, it was at least adequate enough for Baxter's purposes.

"Who, me?" the Bee-Keeper inquired with feigned surprise as he returned to the realm of the real, his endeavors at modesty both inept and yet strangely adroit despite his mild whining, "I'll bee okay; juzzt a little zzore."

From his impromptu reclining spot, the Hero of the Hive watched the unconscious vagrant wrapped in the sticky goo lie motionless, thankfully contained by the unknown heroine's quick thinking as he sat in wait for the response team to show up. It was baffling how every time he seemed to be on the cusp of something important, something even more important reared its ugly head - like some sort of extrasensory tattletale was constantly ratting him out for performing some faux act of normalcy and forcibly amending that little trait. Just as quickly as the thought had crossed him, however, the teen pushed it away. He was feeling good about this, despite the inevitable outcome that would follow tomorrow.

"Don't worry about it. Zztuff happenzz," the young man dismissed after a moment of contemplation, waving a hand towards Starlight as if to similarly banish that train of thought. "Like, you couldn't have known thezze guy'zz were completely nutzz, and everything worked out for the bezzt in the end. Well, I mean, zzorta."

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Starlight folded her arms, frowning. "You do no understand. The man cloaked in darkness -- he reeked of the power of the Shadow, of the Shattenwalt. I bear the Light of Pharos, the Light of Logos; it is my place in the universe and my great honor to strike back as the Lightbearer. But I could not stop him. Whatever he had planned will now continue, regardless." She shook her head ruefully. "I cannot imagine that it will bode well for this town."

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Silver looked up as she changed the cartridges on her web shooters and glanced at the arm on Bee Keeper's costume, "Just out of curiosity, what kind of recoil dampening system do you have in that suit? I apologize if I'm out of line but the way you're favoring your arm leaves me to believe it isn't functioning at optimal performance levels. If you'd like, I can take a look."

Her attention turned to Starlight before she nodded towards the bound and unconscious Sirocco, "Good thing we have somebody to question. If not the entire plan, certainly shadow-guy's hideout."

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"That'zz okay," hummed Baxter, giving the spidery femme fatale an almost comical thumbs up to solidify his status. Behind the mask though, he was both envious and surprised she sounded so savvy with technical aspects, her invitation for aid easily wanting to be accepted on the Bee-Keeper's part, but unable to do so - more so out of the simple fact that the only way he knew how to tinker with the suit's innards was to actually take it off, and reveal his secret identity! Of course, his version of tinkering often involved haphazard guesswork and copious amounts of duct tape, his own mechanical genius more akin to mechanical ineptitude. "Juzzt a little zzore. I'll... uh... I'll check it out later. I'm zzure it'zz juzzt... um... zzomething with the hyperdrauliczz or, uh, zzomething..." he feigned poorly, but nevertheless dismissed the invitation for assistance as politely as he could.

With another invisible look of confusion, the Bee-Keeper seemed suddenly worried about the escape of the other two vagrants whom had caused the Hunter Museum so much trouble only moments prior, standing back up from his slumped position against the display as he began to recompose himself. Despite the breastplate-wearing heroine's insightful elucidation, the young teenager only managed to understand about a quarter of what the faceless entity had explained; but the weight of her words was what set him on edge. It sounded... ominous.

"Zzatten-what? Light of Logozz?" he repeated, as if trying to decipher these strange ramblings with all the effectiveness of a toddler trying to comprehend astrophysics. Antennae twitching slightly, the Bee-Keeper seemed to lose himself to thought for a moment, pacing his way towards the still unmoving culprit tied down to the floor. Things felt as though they'd just nosedived from bad to worse; the worst kind of worse too, no doubt, as things he didn't understand often had a way of doing. "I don't get it. What'zz the big deal? I mean, yeah, they got away; totally zzuckzz, and we zzhould find em'. But it'zz juzzt a jar. What'zz the worzzt thizz shadowguy could do with zzome old jar?"

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"The Light is... compassion and justice." Starlight frowned. In truth, she wasn't as well versed on this aspect of her powers. "And the Shadow is hatred and fear; the Light and the Shadow are opposed, as much as fire and water or life and death, are. I have been chosen to bear the Light; this man was infused and empowered by the Shadow. We are destined to clash. As for the old jar." Starlight shook her head. "I could detect nothing special about it. Though that does not mean there is no significance to it."


Someplace under Freedom City

Shadows gathered and vomited out Hooded Menace and Ricochet, the former holding the canopic jar close. Ricochet quickly checked her gear while Hooded Menace looked the jar over, nearly basking in it. She took a deep breath and turned towards the big man. "At least we got out," she said. "And you got whatever it is you went in there for. Right?" She eyed the jar. "That doesn't look like much."

Hooded Menace turned to face her, still smiling beatifically. "This is another step on a long path," he said, "that will end with my apotheosis."

"Is that so," Ricochet muttered. She'd been around long enough to hear lots of self-proclaimed gods and self-evident monsters rant about how they were one step away from greatness. The trick, she'd found, was to make sure your paycheck wasn't dependent on their plan succeeding.

Hooded Menace turned back to his contemplation of the jar, and slowly and with great ceremony, crushed it between his hands. The shattered pieces of pottery fell to the floor and a thin drizzle of sand followed them. The villain opened his arms wide... and nothing happened. He frowned and one shadow tendril poked at the shards of ceramic. "That's... how could that be? There should be power in there, power of the darkness, power of Apep! It is one of the jars that He was sealed into!"

"Or a replica," Ricochet pointed out. "Kind of stupid for the Museum to keep something like that on display, especially if it's going to entice people to walk up and break the glass."

Hooded Menace cried out in rage and lashed at the walls of the enclosure with tentacles of smoke and shadow, cracking the concrete walls and sending Ricochet scurrying back. Eventually though, he calmed and sighed. "This has been long delayed. It can wait a few more months." A shadow tendril reached out and picked up a duffel bag, carrying it over to Ricochet. "Here is your payment," he said, handing it off to the woman. She unzipped the bag, quickly counted the bills inside, and backed out of the room, tipping an imaginary hat to the shadow controller. Once she was out of sight though, she turned and picked up the pace. Perhaps it was time to be getting out of the city?

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