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Bumble Rumble (IC)


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December 8, 2012

Shopping Mall, Midtown, Freedom City

Corbin Alphonse Hughes hated shopping in malls. Hated. Bad enough dealing with crowds and parking in strip malls or "shopping centers", but at least there if you were in a particular building, you were there for the stuff in that building. Here, there was no such guarantee! People going back and forth, and enough of them things could get tightly packed for normal-sized people.

When you were built like an NFL fullback, it was terribly annoying. Thankfully, he only had two stops total in this place, and one of them (his mother's present) had already been acquired. He was currently jammed in the back end of a small bookstore, looking for a couple of "how to" books (cookbooks and the like) he could send Quo-Dis. She was faring decently enough, but had expressed frustration with the transition from school dorm life. Besides, while he knew she wasn't as big of an eater as him, she still needed to, and he'd found a couple of books with simple but exotic recipes.

'I'm sure she'll like these. And at least this place is close to the college. But...ugh! Man, some of these folks use Axe a bit much...'

He didn't let himself wrinkle his nose or some such, but simply moved back to the checkout line.

'This is boring! I kinda wish something would go down, just to get some action...patrols have been pretty sparse lately...'

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It had been a while since Baxter had been to the mall - a trip that usually only transpired when he could some how corral the time, or when forcibly persuaded by his friends to make the sojourn. Still, it was a welcome change of pace; a gleeful reprieve from the hustle-and-bustle of crime fighting in lieu of an afternoon amidst the eager holiday shoppers that littered the multitude of shops ingrained within Millennium Mall. While he might have been saddled with his impromptu vacation alone, it was still nice in a strange way; getting a chance to just sit back, relax, and return to some temporary sense of teenage normalcy.

And so here he sat at the food court amidst the ruckus of shoppers, a smile creasing his lips as he tore into another teriyaki shishkabob on his plate, his mysterious yet nondescript backpack slung over the back of his chair. Despite the uproarious surroundings, it was still pleasant just to putz around indoors without having to worry so much about villains trying to take his head off or gigantic robots laying siege to his face.

"Definitely need to chill out more often," thought Baxter, tearing another piece of succulent chicken from the wooden skewer in his hand as he watched the people.

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Corbin was walking out of the store around the same time as Baxter was working on his delicious, delicious shishkabobs. The tall teen was himself feeling a bit hungry, and started making his way to the food court, book purchases swinging merrily in the plastic bag from the store.

'I wonder if there's a kabob place here...'

He wouldn't know for a few weeks, though. Because right as the near-titanic teen was teeming with teriyaki-fueled hunger, there were a series of sounds not unlike glass breaking, followed by a stadium-like wave of screams, topped off with a somewhat chilly wave of air. Corbin's confusion compelled him to turn around and behold the cause. When he realized what was going on, he gave a groaning sigh.

"Great. Ninjas."

Indeed! A couple dozen (at least!) ninja-like forms had broken through the mall's skylights and were descending on ropes. They wore full-body suits, but these were clearly not meant to give the wearer stealth, but the power of fear. They bore color patterns of dull yellow and red, with odd markings around their eyes. In fact, for the young man from the Midwest, they somewhat reminded him of-

"Wasp ninjas? This town officially has everything."

With a sigh, he started muscling his way through the panicking herd of humanity that filled the mall. Even as the ninjas began causing havoc (some seemed to be engaging in larceny, while others in causing terror or attempted injuries, though no blood was shed, yet), Corbin slipped into one of the side hallways of the mall, which led him to one of the larger public restrooms. He was lucky, as it was empty; further luck gave him a drop ceiling where he could stow his purchases. The fact that the camera had strangely emitted sparks as he passed may well have been the fault of the ninjas; his cell phone was suddenly signal-less.

'Guess they don't want the police interrupting too soon...At least the lights work.'

With a thought, he was Cobalt Templar, and he managed to slip back in the hall (which was empty, but there wasn't an emergency exit nearby, so that made sense) with no one the wiser. He sped through the air, a blue blur that went over people's heads before they could properly register what was going on, settling into his imposing armor-clad figure as he calmly descended from a broken skylight, arms crossed over his chest.

"I appreciate long underwear on days like this, guys, but you seem to have forgotten your other layers."

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That nice air of calm in the middle of the turbulent storm of eager bargain hunters was silenced, so to speak, when the unexpected happened: ninjas! And not just any ninjas - these were ninjas dressed like bugs! Like wasps! Kinda like Bee-Keeper!

"Great. First it's robotic wasps, now wasp ninjas. Fantastic."

Practically choking on his meal as the uncomfortably similar assailants began to accost the good patrons of the mall, Baxter sputtered and coughed in a feeble attempt to get out of his seat and find some place secluded - judging by the aggressive measures these pajama wearing fools were taking, Millennium Mall needed someone to save them! But as he rose from the plastic-and-steel chair he'd so surreptitiously taken up to enjoy his meal prior, Baxter Bowles soon became the target of one of the menacing masked men!

"Bié dòng!!" barked the high-tech assassin gruffly in an unknown language as Baxter stumbled to his feet, the figure drawing a flat - but clearly electrified! - blade from the scabbard on his back. The African-American teenager tried to sputter out a sharp quip of his own as the man approached, still struggling to swallow the teriyaki as it traveled down the wrong portion of his esophagus. Unable to adequately dislodge the wandering fragment of his meal, it was clear that quip would have to wait; a different sort of reply was going to be necessary.

Grabbing his backpack from off of the back of his chair, Baxter did what any mild mannered teenager would do if they were completely insane and being approached by an armed ninja: slung it by the shoulder straps like an impromptu club, catching the bug-eyed master of subterfuge across the face with a bag of reinforced steel and polymer metals as though it were a sock with a lock in it! The armed assailant staggered and stumbled backwards, reeling from the weighty blow before collapsing. Two more of his friends, somewhat surprised, looked to the boy with distinct purpose: they were going to put him down!

"Oh, man! Oh, man! Oh, man!" the high school student mentally chided, turning tail as they began to move towards him against the panicked crowd. He had one shot at losing them; and so, with all the reckless abandon his youth could muster within the situation, Baxter leapt from the second floor of the food court towards the tiled floor below! With a painful wince as he connected with the concrete, rolling from the impact of the haphazard landing, the winded hero-in-disguise dove for the nearest boutique for cover, desperate to elude the incredibly dangerous assailants assaulting the mall. Despite the soreness of his collision with the concrete, Baxter managed to drag himself into what appeared to be some sort of sports apparel shop, maneuvering his bruised butt under the cover of a circular rack of jogging pants. Watching as the pair of armed goons moved beyond the store in search of the boy who'd slugged their pal, Baxter crept out from his hidey-hole and into the nearby deserted changing room.

"Note to self: don't jump over rails anymore," he winced as he set his backpack on one of the pegs inside the door, pulling the concealed albeit hefty battlesuit from out of its makeshift camouflage and setting it down on the little bench inside. Pulling out his cell, Baxter flipped the little display on, eager to dial for the police... and, instead, was greeted by a lack of bars. So much for the cops!


Changing gears, Baxter hefted up the stocky box-shaped metallic container and with the press of a button, the battlesuit whirred to life, encasing the young teen in the comforting shell of gold-and-black bee-themed protective armor. It would take the suit a moment to get things oriented; hopefully the distraught citizens could hold out until then!

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While the armor was still coming online, there was a sudden commotion outside the store. An unidentifiable noise resolved into a *crash*, accompanied by a wordless yell. If he glanced out into the mall's central area, he'd see what looked like a giant made of blue fire, with a ninja in each hand, crouched on the ground.

"Booyah! Take that, ninjas! You guys don't scare me, I've fought Nazis!"

---*A Few Moments Ago*---

Cobalt Templar didn't have to wait long as he slowly lowered himself into the mall proper; a ninja gave a wordless cry as he leapt from the 2nd floor walkway into a flying kick aimed right at CT's face...that didn't so much as force him to turn his head. Before the ninja could react, Templar had grabbed his ankle and was holding him upside down.

"Next time wash your boots better, dude."

A cluster of 4 ninjas rushed him from various angles while he was seemingly distracted. One was dispatched using the still-struggling Jump Kick Guy as a club, while another experienced an impact with JKG. The last two were easily man-handled when Cobalt Templar shifted to his "giant form" and grabbed them, one per hand, and started dragging them along as he sped to the food court (as good of a place as any to start cleaning out the mall from).

He now stood in front of a sports shop, not noticing the hero inside the store. He instead focused on the ninjas in his hands, who he was quickly working into a state of "battered and unconscious", mostly by slamming them into the ground.

That of course meant he didn't notice the two trying to sneak up on him with swords in hand!

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Watching with stupefied amazement as the hulking blue giant went about demolishing the ninjas from his hidden vantage point. Nice to see he wasn't alone amongst the throngs of ninja terrorizing the mall! But what was their beef? What could Millennium Mall possibly hold for a bunch of high-tech ninjutsu nuts like these? They couldn't be here for the sale on designer jeans; they had to have some kind of purpose.

Whatever the reason, he'd figure it out later. Looking to the corner of the heads-up display, the happy looking digital bee gave a thumbs up as all the armor's systems finished coming online. And not a moment too soon, as in the hub-bub of beating those wasp-motif villains down, two more were quickly moving in from behind against the enormous man, electric swords drawn to deliver the coup de grace!

"Yo! Look out!" came the clarion call of the Bee-Keeper as he kicked in the flimsy dressing room door, sending it splintered and broken across the carpeted floor. In a flurry of blasts and wha-thumps, the bee-themed superhero seized the initiative and caught the pair of sneaky ninja by surprise; catching one with a glob of honey and affixing him to the floor, whilst the other received a painful blast of energy to the torso, sending him reeling across the floor beside his colleague.

Quite pleased with himself, the Bee-Keeper III struck a dynamic pose; heroic, albeit perhaps cliche' and over the top. But the situation soon brought him back to his senses as a thought crossed his mind: he looked an awful lot like those ninjas!

"Whoa, whoa! I'm on your zzide!" insisted the armored Hero of the Hive, hands flailing at the wrist as if to swear to his own authenticity. "I'm the Bee-Keeper III - bee, not a wazzp!"

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Cobalt Templar turned at the warning, dropping the groaning ninjas from his giant hands. In a brief flash of fire, he was suddenly normal-sized again. He raised an eyebrow at the...unusual...manner of garb of the guy who'd warned him, though he couldn't help but smirk at the very thematic way he took out the 2 ninjas who had tried to ninja-sneak behind him!

He took a few steps closer, his red cape fluttering in a non-existent breeze, his face calm. Another ninja dropped from the ceiling suddenly, but was slapped aside with a gleaming cylindrical mace in his left hand that sent him flying several feet to land bonelessly on the ground. He seemed determined to silently stare down the Apian Avenger!

He stopped a few feet away from BK, tilting his head to the right a bit. Without a word, he lifted a large handgun in his right hand. For several long moments, the barrel seemingly pointed straight at Bee-Keeper's head, the flames of the energy-construct projectile flickering in the over-sized barrel. The sound when it fired was strange, an almost electrical whine as the half-formed bolt of blue fire roared through the air...

And smacked into the face of the wasp ninja who'd been sneaking up on Bee-Keeper with a sound like Mike Tyson's boxing glove hitting home. The Ninja cried out in surprise, flipped in a 360 degree arc, stumbled, and fell down in a groaning heap. Only then did CT smile as he twirled the gun construct in one hand, resting the mace in his other hand on his shoulder.

"Nice to meet you, Bee-Keeper. I'm Cobalt Templar the First. You're sporting a different look, and you watched my back; that's proof enough you're legit. Now, there are ninjas afoot. Let's say we show them how we rumble in Freedom City, huh?"

His grin showed he was hyped up and looking for trouble.

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Having gone from timely savior to a one-man sweatshop at the sight of the gargantuan man's intimidating stare and firearm being pointed squarely in his face, all the Bee-Keeper could do in the wake of the cape-billowing hero's momentous ninja interception was emit a frightened, yet relieved chuckle. Boy, was he glad he wasn't on the receiving end of the giant mace! With a physique like Cobalt Templar's, Baxter would probably lose his head if he got thumped by that thing!

"Haha... uh, yeah. Let'zz get thezze guyzz!" nodded the Bee-Keeper, regaining his composure in the wake of the awkward intervention. At least Cobalt Templar was all gung-ho about dealing with these masked weirdos. Bee-Keeper III couldn't agree more; they posed a serious threat to the safety of the folks who'd been caught by surprise in Millennium Mall, their high-tech toys a menacingly rude awakening for the armored Hero of the Hive.

Before the dynamic duo had a chance to begin the offensive anew, a sudden eruption of smoke ensorcelled them, obscuring sight and eliciting even more screams as it spread across the tiled floor of the mall. Having caught the two mid-conversation, the Wasp Ninja took their opportunity to counter-attack! Baxter tensed sharply as his vision spontaneously became obfuscated, but the Apiary Avenger had his own countermeasures! Quickly flipping the helmet's enhanced vision on, the smoke seemed to clear from his line of sight... but too late! From an almost prone, crouched position, one of the masked assailants had crept his way beyond the Bee-Keeper III's line of sight, high-tech sword at the ready even as Baxter spied him below. In a terrifying upward slash that arced with malign electricity, the blade scraped across the suit with sinister intent, causing the teenage hero the emit a squeal of first surprise, then a groan of paralyzing pain!

"Argh! You zztupid jerk!" barked the yellow-and-black hero as the blade left not only its scathing cut across the battlesuit, but also a discernible burn from its shocking discharge. Oh, this guy'd earned Baxter's ire now! Taking the hit with a wince and a grain of salt, the heavily-armored bee-themed superhero whirled around on his heel almost without skipping a beat, delivering a swift punch to the assassin's ugly mug. But he wasn't done - oh, no. Not yet. Just as the ninja began to sink to the cold and unforgiving floor beneath him, the Bee-Keeper maneuvered around him as quickly as he could, locking his arms around his mid-section. With a swift but clumsy hoist, the boy in the tin can lifted the barely conscious assailant upwards, suplexing him against the concrete tiles with wicked force! Dropping his armaments, the technologically superior warrior slumped to the ground unconsciously, Baxter himself pleased - albeit sore! - with the results of his counter-attack.

"Zzeriouzzly! Who are thezze guyzz?!"

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"Right on! Let's.....huh, that's odd."

Cobalt Templar frowned as the smoke rolled in; just before he was obscured by the fog, Bee-Keeper may have notices his eyes glowing a deep blue color. The younger armored hero might catch muttering about "cheaters" and "thick as pea soup". When the Wasp Ninjas struck, there were a couple of grunts from Templar, along with what sounded like a Ninja getting hit with his mace (and then hitting a wall or ceiling or floor). One flew out of the smoke to zoom by Baxter and skid along the floor!

"Gah! I don't know who sent you but I swear they're gonna regret this! Freaking ninjas! Your outfits are terrible and-OUCH!"

There was the sound of his fiery hand-cannon firing, before another *smack* sounded. Except this one sounded odd...

Then Cobalt Templar himself stumbled backwards out of the smoke. His cape was gone, and several shallow cuts showed across his armor on his back, with on deeper one on his left arm. But the front of his not-quite-real armor had actually crumpled inward a bit, as out of the fog strode three figures who were different from the rest of the Wasp Ninjas.

One was a large muscular man who looked a match for Cobalt Templar; another was a more average-sized woman wielding twin electrified swords. The last member of the trio was a shirtless sumo-like "Ninja", who made even Cobalt Templar look small; he was smacking one hand into the other palm, a grin showing through his mask. The way Corbin looked at him, it was clear he'd been the one to bend his armor.

"Okay, we can do this, man. There's three of them, sure, but we're both awesome. It's not like they have....back....up...."

As the smoke cleared, it became clear CT was slightly wrong in his estimates. While something like a score of ninja were scattered about them, groaning or unconscious, there were another two dozen "regular" ninjas arrayed around them in a circle. Cobalt Templar slowly, carefully moved until he was standing shoulder-to-shoulder (comparatively) with Bee-Keeper. His chest armor somewhat "repaired" itself, and his pistol and mace disappeared, being replaced with a fiery naginata, gripping it firmly in both hands. He spoke with renewed confidence, his tone somewhere between "cautious" and "cocky".

"So. Uh. Split the little guys, I take sumo, you take muscle-neck, and winner takes on sword-lady?"

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"Zzoundzz like a plan, man," bemoaned the Bee-Keeper as he came shoulder to shoulder with his latest super-acquaintance, equally displeased with the fact they'd ended up surrounded. Who sends ninjas to attack a mall? It wasn't like they were having a sale on nunchucks at the Gap or something. There had to be a bigger score here than just running amok.

But there was a time for questions, and a time for kicking gratuitous amounts of ninja-butt. And that time was now! Moving away from Cobalt Templar in a flurry of heavy footfalls, the Bee-Keeper III unloaded on the encircling ninjas, a rapid-fire volley of honey-like goop and high-powered energy blasts pelting them each with thunderous force. One by one, they fell like dominoes. Ninja dominoes. But still, the concussive force of the armored avenger's own potent armament was making quick work of the foolhardy (and oddly open) shadow warriors too surprised to bound out of the way.

There's always a couple though who aren't as keen on getting blasted as their friends though. Clearly angry, their retaliation was swift and vengeful as they moved against the Bee-Keeper for his snide insinuations about zapping their friends. Three of them came a'runnin', weapons held high! The first was unfortunate in his attempt, catching a face full of metal fist and cracking the concrete as he kissed it. His friend behind him, however, was wholly successful! Electro-sword held up at the ready, the wasp ninja swung hard and fast... but it was only a ruse as Baxter tried to block! Caught off-guard, the sneaky so-and-so stuck something to the boy - some sort of round discus thing. Peering at it got the Bee-Keeper no where fast; but he soon discovered its nefarious means. With a tremendous 'Whumph!,' the disc exploded, sending Baxter reeling against the floor as metal ground against the tiles, the young hero breathless from the sudden explosion. Before he could get back to his feet, that third ninja was right on top of him, leaping through the air like some sort of nightmare. Driving home with its sword, the masked assassin struck home against the armor for the second time this afternoon, generating another sear across the once impeccable armor of the Bee-Keeper and causing Baxter to hiss out in pain.

"Oh, that izz it!" barked the Bee-Keeper gruffly. He'd clearly had enough of this tomfoolery! With his assailant still poised on top of him, Bee-Keeper let loose with another blast of energy from his gauntlet. For Baxter, it was nice to literally get that thing off his chest. For the ninja? For the unfortunate ninja, it got to go on a rather painful trip, catching the brunt of the blast right in its gut before being propelled upwards and into the ceiling of what was once the second-story food court. As if that weren't enough, the ensuing fall belted the poor thing, forcing an eruption of moans after a somewhat hilarious scream.

"Haha! Take that, you zztupid ninjazz!" he wheezed out, regaining his posture and throwing his arms up in a combative stance as he whirled back around to meet he muscular mook. "C'mon! That the bezzt you guyzz've got? Weeeeeak!"

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Ninjas wait for no man, it seemed. Almost before BK had confirmed CT's plan, several ninjas were airborne, soaring toward the blue-clad hero. Some almost immediately flew backwards, slammed away by the blunt end of his self-constructed weapon. Other stopped in mute surprise as their weapons were deftly sliced apart, before the flat of the fiery blade hit them upside the head and knocked them down.

Of course, a few got back up; whether it was sheer grit driving them on, or Templar's blows not imparting all the force he wanted. And while he was no slouch in the speed and agility department, it wasn't his strong point, and after a minute, he had a couple ninjas physically grappling with him. Each arm had a ninja attempting to hold it still. Had his strength been that of a mortal, the blue-clad hero would surely have been at their mercy.

Instead he shrugged and flew upwards about 5 feet...before suddenly turning himself and the two ninjas horizontal and slamming back down into the ground. His opponents stayed put as he stood up, looking around. The naginata dissipated, and he decided to stick with his fists for a moment, though the armor around his arms seemed to thicken a bit. Only four ninja mooks remained, after all! And those were quickly dispatched.

Then a large, meaty hand wrapped around this throat, gripping it like an iron vice.


Cobalt Templar's eyes widened as the "sumo wrestler" seemingly casually picked him up with one hand, a grin on his face. He brought the young hero up as high as his arm could reach (which even to CT seemed rather far up in the air), before slamming him down flat on his back with shocking speed.

This time, the armor all over his body showed cracks, and he lay there dazed and confused for several moments. The wind was knocked out of him for sure!

'That hurt more than the time I got Erin to punch me as hard as she could, back before we stabbed Omega in the face. At least I think it hurts more. Ow. Pain.'

A few long seconds stretched, and the padded giant grinned again, raising one booted foot up to crush Templar's head...

Right before a blue fist the size of the sumo's head grabbed his foot. The large man's eyes bugged out in surprise as Cobalt Templar growled in anger, slowly standing up to a height that dwarfed even the giant before him, casually holding the man upside down with one arm!

"That HURT."

And then he proceeded to slam the sumo wrestler back and forth into the ground, flopping around like a doughy rag doll for several moments, before ending up back on his feet. Barely. Before the sumo-ninja could clear his head, the fire-giant in front of him grabbed him, flipped him upside down, and proceeded to fly up past the second floor of the mall. At which point he slammed the surprisingly tough ninja into the ground in a giant-sized piledriver that left a small crater in the floor. A crater from which the sumo didn't move, even as a now-normal sized Cobalt Templar strode toward where Bee-Keeper faced off against the large muscular man. He was about to shout some encouragement at his armored comrade when he felt a slight buzz and cold metal at his throat. Without moving his head or neck, he shifted his gaze to the woman with two swords. She was standing there calmly, her face betraying no emotion.

"So. Come here often?"

Her flat stare didn't give him much hope of talking this out.

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With the lesser pajama-wearing goons thwarted (and much of impromptu battlefield in tatters), it was time to take care of the more serious threats... threats, it seemed, Cobalt Templar was already becoming more accustomed with! After watching and wincing at the somewhat comical scene of the immense sumo being flung around like a ragdoll, Baxter felt surprisingly overwhelmed by his newest colleague's brute strength. Awed, even! But the tables, as they so often were, turned as the stoic woman with the fancy swords caught Cobalt Templar at the point of her blades!

"Hey, hey, whoa! Not cool!" the Bee-Keeper barked back, almost ignoring the far more muscular and intimidating gentleman he'd chided only moments ago. Moving to render aid was a bad idea, as Baxter soon found out. With a painful boot to the head, the lone remaining male ninja sent the armored hero staggering backwards and gripping his helmeted face. It was like getting hit by a car with toes! Whoever this guy was, he meant business, his smug look of self-satisfaction rubbing the young teen like an Indian burn.

"Oh, that'zz it!" sneered the Hero of the Hive, fists clenched as he steeled himself for the counter-attack. This time, Baxter didn't even bother moving towards Cobalt Templar and the sword-swinging lady endangering him. Soaring just inches above the ground, the Bee-Keeper closed the gap with startling alacrity. Once more, the muscular brute delivered another kick in anticipation, but this time, Baxter was ready! He took the kick straight on, another ripple of pain aching across his ribs as the man's foot connected with the metallic armor. Unfortunately for the ninja warrior, the Bee-Keeper saw it coming, and took hold of the man's leg! Even now, the shadowy kickboxer's eyes went wide; whatever was about to happen next wasn't going to be pleasant! Coming back down to the ground, the armored avenger's superior strength gave him considerable leverage as he began to spin the martial artist around like a kid with a bucket full of water at the beach, building dizzying momentum as he went. He had one shot at this - and while Baxter was feeling a bit of vertigo, the suit's targeting functionality picked up the slack. Just as the reticle came over the woman with the blades, he loosed his grip, sending the would-be kung-fu master flying towards his former friend holding Cobalt Templar at bay!

Alas, Baxter was too little, too late. While the man whom had kicked him so soundly came crashing to a stop as he flew through glass and vivid mannequins displaying the latest fashions within a nearby shop, the armed assailant in the wasp motif was too quick, avoiding the collision with a quick step away from the man she held at blade-point. But at least she had backed off a bit, and that was all that mattered for right now. Whether the other fella was going to get back up or not Baxter hadn't a clue; he was too busy shaking off the dizziness!

"And that'zz what you get!" he yelled towards the collaterally-damaged store and the thrown ninja likely still lying inside.

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As soon as the sword was away from his throat, Cobalt Templar beat a hasty tactical withdrawal to the side of Bee-Keeper. He put a hand on the other hero's shoulder, steadying him a bit, even as the swordswoman silently studied the two of them. For a few moments, the only sound was the crackle of the electro-swords in her hands. Finally, Cobalt Templar spoke.

"We have to take her together. Besides, it's dangerous to go alone. Take this."

With a grin, he formed a sphere of dense fire in his hands and tossed it in a gentle arc; by the time it stopped in front of Bee-Keeper and floated in the air, it was a shining blue short sword, a blade fit for the Armored Apian!

Cobalt Templar himself closed his eyes and concentrated for a moment, his body shrouding itself in opaque blue fire. When the flames cleared away, he was wearing a deep blue armored suit, complete with a large sword grasped in both hands. He stood for a long moment, seemingly waiting for something....

Before surging forward, the tip of his sword trailing flame. In a flash, two met one, and Corbin's sword was held at bay, and even pushed back. Surprise showed on his face.

"You're pretty strong, little lady. Ah! Hey! Watch it!"

Apparently she didn't appreciate the John Wayne reference (so few did these days), and had tried to rob Corbin of his head. Sparks flew as flame met lightning and metal met hard light; neither seemed to have an advantage over the other, gaining no real ground one way or another. But her attention was fully on Cobalt Templar, at least for the moment...

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Taking the flaming blade in hand awkwardly, the Bee-Keeper looked at it with a mixed sense of awe and skepticism.

"I don't know how to uzze thizz thing!" he yelped, pointing towards the fiery blue short sword whilst holding it aloft in his other hand. Whatever chance he had at getting something a little less stabby was quickly admonished, however, when the vicious swordswoman thwarted Cobalt Templar's attack. At least the big blue fella was right on the money: she was pretty strong for a little lady! Strong enough to push him back, at least, and Cobalt Templar was looking not unlike a giant living brick in comparison to Baxter's smaller, more metal-rimmed physique.

"Guess now's a good time to learn..."

Shaking the cobwebs of doubt from his mind, the Bee-Keeper followed suit with his ally, charging the dual-wielding woman with his stumpy little blade of searing flame. As he closed the gap, the incognito teenager began to flail it wildly, more akin to a kid with a wriggling fish between his hands than an accomplished bladesman, each blow as easily deflected as the last. It had to have been insulting for the woman to deal with such a whelp, her face marred with derisive disdain as she struck the Apiary Avenger across the abdomen with one of her trusty swords, sending a shower of sparks flying from his person as the Bee-Keeper tumbled to the floor behind her.

"Urgh... note to zzelf: avoid zztabby implementzz..." bemoaned the bee-themed hero as he staggered to his feet. If nothing else, at least his failed attempt yielded some kind of success - now he was behind her! There was no way she could deal with both of them in unison, striking as a single force from opposite sides!

"We've gotcha now!" barked the Bee-Keeper in renewed defiance, gripping his newly procured blade between his cold steel gauntlets as he charge her again like a wild animal!

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Untested though it was, Bee-Keeper's energetic strike managed to hit home; just moments before, Cobalt Templar had given a powerful swing of his own sword that commanded both blades of the swordswoman to deflect away from herself. So while it may have been deflected at any other time, this very moment, the blow struck true.

Despite its apparently sharp edge, the blade didn't dig in like a physical blade. It seemed to strike a bit more like a blunt object, with some of the fire flaring briefly along her shoulder where it struck. At that same moment, Cobalt Templar grinned savagely, and actually willed his sword to disappear. He took two quick steps back, his fanciful suit flowing into his more normal armor with nary a thought. He crouched down for a moment...

Then surged forward, hitting the still-reeling lady ninja in the stomach with a quick but powerful jab. She doubled over, making her an easier target for the strike that hit her even harder, lifting her almost a foot into the air.

Which was when Corbin straightened up and delivered a full-force blow to her head in a fantastic rising uppercut that saw him fly a couple feet up, and saw the lady ninja rise just as high before flying backward to land, unconscious, on the softer belly of her sumo companion.

CT held himself in a ready position for a few moments, eying the half-wrecked mall around them with a wary eye. When no one jumped out at him, he grinned and set down again, dramatically dusting his hands off while he turned to talk to BK.

"Bruises aside, that was pretty awesome! Man, it's too bad we haven't gotten a chance to work together before; you seem like a pretty awesome guy."

The sword Bee-Keeper held dissolved into fiery mist and then nothing as Cobalt Templar held out his hand to shake BK3's.

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Surveying the chaos that had stricken Millennium Mall as the last of the ninja warriors fell at the hands of Cobalt Templar, the young bee-themed hero breathed a loud sigh of relief. All around them, the place was a mess; the strange Wasp Ninjas littered the shopping center everywhere, right along side broken glass, destroyed mannequins, crumbling supports, and electrically-scorched tiles. Doctor Metropolis was going to have a field day with this nonsense if he stumbled across it before the mall's proper channels could.

Still, Baxter felt good. He'd never fought ninjas before! Fatigue and bruises pushed from the equation, Templar was right - it was pretty awesome! The only way it might have been better is if the civilians hadn't been caught in the crossfire, put at risk for... well, the Bee-Keeper really didn't know what drove the assassins to strike from the shadows! All he knew for sure was that if Cobalt Templar hadn't been there, it probably would have been a much more one-sided confrontation.

"Thankzz!" the Hero of the Hive finally responded, a comically cheesy thumbs-up added in with strange gravitas before returning to a more stoic pose. "But not azz awezzome as you! I mean, man! Giant mazze to the fazze! BLAM!" exaggerated the Bee-Keeper, miming what could only be some guy with a golf club beating things in the head for justice. "And the fiery zzwordzz? And the gun?! Way to make the Expendablezz look like a cheap knock-off!"

Panning back to the scene at hand, the armored Apiary avenger grew somewhat more somber.

"Zzeriouzzly though, what'zz the deal with thezze ninjazz?" he inquired, prodding one of the unconscious henchmen with his foot. "Who attackzz a mall in broad daylight? I mean, I'm no ninja expert, but I've zzeen enough moviezz, y'know? Alwayzz thought they were zzuppozzed to zztrike from the zzhadowzz, then dizzappear."

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"Ha! Yeah, I bet I could arm-wrestle Arnie, even without the ring."

Considering how big the fella was, he just might be able to.

"But as for these chumps...I don't know, man. I've been in this city for a few years now, doing the hero thing. I think this is the second time I've faced ninjas at all. Those guys were in with the Crimson Katana, and they did do the more classical "strike from the shadows". I ran into some sorta turf war or something, busted heads on every side. They had some tattoos and stuff to mark their "allegiance", but...nothing so thematic. Kinda spooky. Especially since they didn't try to rob anything. Just...causing trouble. Hard to say if it was just to cause a panic, an attempt to draw out whatever heroes were nearby, or a more...targeted approach. Maybe the cops will be able to find out."

Templar glanced around one more time.

"Might be best if we, ah, just slip out. All things considered. Oh! Uh, let's see. Yeah, here we go."

He dug out a card that had nothing but a phone number on it.

"If some big gnarly ninja thing goes down again or whatnot, just drop me a line there or something, you know. Catch you later, Bee-Kay."

An affectionate (and perhaps slightly overpowered) slap to the shoulder, and CT disappeared, burning quickly to the spot he'd hidden his paid-for merchandise. It was time to get out of there. Luckily, there was still a hole in the skylight, which he quickly flew off through, disappearing in the normal hustle and bustle of Freedom City skies.

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Surveying the destruction of the mall along with Cobalt Templar, Baxter couldn't help but wince behind his helmet. The place was in tatters and littered with ninjas; with the police on their way, hopefully they'd have better luck figuring out what their agenda was... but that didn't mean he wanted to be around when they showed up, especially when it was technically their fault Millennium Mall wasn't looking so good!

"Zzoundzz like a deal," nodded the Bee-Keeper in wholesome agreement, taking the phone number and stuffing it into a small compartment embedded in his wrist.

Unfurling his wings with a sharp whoosh of air, the Bee-Keeper fluttered above the floor for a moment, peering towards the trio of ninja wannabes whom had lead this little exercise. Who were they, and what did you want? Why the mall? And why wasps? So many questions left unanswered; but it was time to skedaddle.

"Catch you later, Co'!" he chimed, giving his associate a mock salute. In a rush of energy, the Hero of the Hive blurred through Millennium Mall, out the door, and up into air, not even bothering to retrieve the puke green backpack he'd used to conceal the compacted armor as the Bee-Keeper rocketed away from the scene of the crime. Right now, he just wanted to get gone; after all, this was twice that some wasp-themed shenanigans had come up, and both times the Bee-Keeper was present. Things were starting to look fishy, but for now, Baxter was content in the thought that he and his new pal had thumped their aggressors soundly...

But would it be the last time?

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