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Two for the Money, Three for a Show [IC]


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Saturday, August 31st, 2013
Eastern Seaboard Bank Building (Riverside Branch), Downtown Freedom City
4:51 PM

Freedom City has always been an odd cookie, even for one based in a world filled with those of truly exceptional gifts such as superpowers. It has always been something of a mecca for those with a penchant for the extraordinary; a trait that has both been reviled and revered in the long annals of the city's history. Yet no matter how many heroes claim Freedom City as their home, there will always be those who oppose them in the face of such overwhelming odds, crime as readily available on the streets as it is in any other city.
And today was no exception.
For the Downtown Branch of the Eastern Seaboard Bank Building, it had been an otherwise uneventful day as the clock slowly crept its way towards closing time. With most of the staff having already left for the day as it wound its way down, only a handful remained steadfast in their duty, placated by the silence following the last mild rush of the weekend. The manager, Janice Fitzgerald, still sat poised at her office in her smooth two-piece business suit, plugging away and double-checking figures, ocassionally pitching a glance towards Bernard, the thirty-something security guard who'd been with the branch since his graduation from FCU. The man was relaxed, a magazine in-hand as he rested in a plain black chair near the front entrance. He was a good guy... but more noticeably, he was the apple of her remaining teller's untold affection. Rebecca was positively smitten; and while Bernard might have remained oblivious to her hints, Janice -- and practically everyone else! -- wasn't.
Just another day, really.
Suddenly, an unmarked van pulled in alongside the entryway, its faded and chipped grey paint belying its age against the modern world. With a harsh, audible squeak, the driver side door of the decrepit vehicle was flung open, and in its wake came forth the last customer for the day -- a customer who was looking to make one last withdrawl before the eSea Bank shut down for the day.
Garbed in a simple grey, nigh skin-tight spotted jumpsuit, the young woman wore a humble domino mask and matching hood alongside the rest of her atire; a woman who would be a spectacle anywhere else were it not Freedom City. For a moment the guard hesitates, but that disarming lipstick-smeared smile is all it takes from the costume-clad arrival to put the man at ease.
"Evenin', ma'am," Bernard greeted, his western drawl as evident as his polite demeanor. "Just in time. Looks like you'll be the last 'fore we close down shop."
"Oh? Well that's good!" mimed the woman in faux surprise, her eyebrows sinking in halfhearted relief. But as quickly as the costumed lass' smile had appeased the lone armed guard, it twisted and contorted itself into a sinister grin; one of malice and hate, driven by bitter passions and grim forebearance as she spoke. "Very good..."
Edited by SpicyWaffle
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Ever since the Day of Wrath and his subsequent return to Earth, Baxter hadn't exactly had it easy. It began with guilt; self-inflicted on the part of his own capture and the deeds his robotic duplicate had committed in the name of the Curator in his stead. Replaced in the blink of an eye, trapped on a hostile world riddled with death, and a one-in-a-million shot at being rescued... and yet, despite all odds, he survived thanks to an archer, a doctor, a baseball bat toting bruiser, an ex-Omegadrone, and their erstwhile allies.
But it wasn't until he got home that things began to really set in. That's when his own self-doubt reared its ugly head. The truth was obvious: Baxter wasn't just rough around the edges, but barely competent at all. He was an amateur at best, and a hack at worst; relying more so on luck and the suit crazy ol' Uncle Barry had pointed him towards. He barely knew how the suit worked, let alone what all it was capable of! But the damage had been done. Was this really what Baxter wanted? To risk his life every day for people he barely knew, or have the same suit he'd come to rely upon taken and used against them again? Or, perhaps, a chance that maybe this time, he wouldn't even survive? It was a lot for the teenager to swallow. He wanted to help, to do something more than what he was capable of on his own... but maybe he just wasn't cut out for that.
And thus, Baxter retired for a short time. He'd planned to turn the suit over to Fleur de Joie, letting the League do with it what they thought was best; he'd tell his folks what'd happened and just leave the whole Bee-Keeper mess behind. The plan was to focus on getting his life back together, on getting back into the groove of what it meant to be a regular teenager again. Maybe he'd go to art school, or college. He didn't know. Just anything that wouldn't jeopardize something like that happening again. But plans, as they often do for the young and inexperienced, fell through. Baxter tried, truth be told. Every time the chance to tell his parents came up, he'd choke. At the thought of calling Fleur to take the Bee-Keeper Armor off his hands, he'd balk. He couldn't explain it but he just... he couldn't bring himself to go through with it. He couldn't let it go.
In his newfound state of retirement, however, Baxter languished. A restlessness hounded him at every waking moment, and he found himself just as lurid and mentally disorganized as he'd been when he was losing sleep to zip around the skies above Freedom City in the dead of night. He'd almost forgotten what it was like not to be able to perform feats of superhuman strength, or to zap evil right in the hindquarters; the rush of success at a job well done, and the tension of danger forming knots in his stomach. But what he missed most was his sense of purpose, his insatiable drive to do something -- anything! -- good for his hometown on the scale he had before nagging at his conscience. Now, after all had been said and done, the Curator long since defeated and the floating zoos above his command ship saved from certain destruction, Baxter felt more helpless now than ever before in his self-imposed exile. It felt strange; wrong, even. Like a piece of him was missing, locked away in an imaginary prison of his own design... and, for a time, fighting to keep it that way.
But you can't fight human nature. Even if Baxter was the worst, most undisciplined, and clearly insane teen in the last decade for taking some random piece of high-end technology for himself in order to fight crime, at least he did it for a reason. For a cause. For something he believed in. And it was that unquenchable drive that rekindled his spirit; his desire to set himself higher than just himself.
The idea of heroism wasn't just some childish flight of fancy for him anymore. It was ingrained in him as much as the ideals that set Freedom City apart from anywhere else in the world. At his heart, whether he wanted to admit it or not, he was a hero. And that's why Baxter wasn't -- couldn't -- give up. He wanted to be a hero. Wanted to make a difference. And that's what defined him: his undying calling to strive and take that youthful zeal and apply it positively. Not for him, or his ego, or to save face... but for the people of Freedom City. And for that, he was at least going to try.
Edited by SpicyWaffle
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For the last few months, Baxter had been hard at work in preperation for a comeback. He'd learned the hard way back on that delapidated version of Freedom City that he was a one-trick pony: a man of literal strength and brawn, inexperienced in solving the quandries of a superheroic life outside of punching crooks in-between the eyes, skirting by on the talents of others like Jill O'Cure, Blue Jay, and Silver Spider. But not this time. Redoubling his efforts in the wake of his greatest failure, Baxter instead set out to better himself. He poured his heart into his time at the Espadas School; scoured websites and books alike on information involving engineering and biology. This time things would be different.
Regardless of what was once a melancholy lad mired in a sea of uncertainty, Baxter had since bounced back in the wake of his surreal adventure. Back in the storage shed-turned-impromptu workshop where he'd first uncovered the prototype battlesuit, the young Bee-Keeper sat in relative silence, encased in his armor as he tinkered and toyed with the servos through their casing. Through these mechanical endeavors, he'd found some measure of peace; a sort of ritualized practice that made him happy. But as he toiled away, something caught his eye: the familiar sign of an otherwise distraught digital bee in the corner of the armor's HUD alerting him to a message!
Tapping the little message with all due haste, Baxter's eyes lit up behind the insectile facade as the source became clear: someone had tripped the silent alarm over at the E-Sea Bank Building in Riverside! How typical. If it wasn't a museum, it was a bank. And yet, for all its cliche' bearings, the young Bee-Keeper couldn't help but give a smile. This was exactly what he'd been waiting for; a chance to stretch his legs and put some work in towards this whole actually-being-a-superhero thing.
"Well that can't be good." Baxter thought, a strange amalgamation of excitement and nervousness picking its way into his body. It wouldn't be the first time one of the E-Sea Banks had been targeted by would-be heisters, but that hardly made it any more liable to be skipped over. Where there was money, there was always someone looking to take it! But the money was inconsequential, really. What mattered was the people there, if any. Innocent bankers, cashiers, and clerks were in danger because some jerk thought it'd be a good idea to try and break in! Someone had to do something. Might as well be him.
Shuffling his way towards the entryway, the apiary avenger raised the metal slat up with a telltale but familiar grind just a few inches off of the concrete ground. Without skipping a beat, a small, almost unnoticeable mechanical bug flitted its way from the suit, making its otherwise innocuous journey below the door with nary a sound. Peering through its eyes via the bee-themed helmet on his head, it looked like the coast was clear -- a good time to make his getaway without being seen! Following his insectile automaton outside, Baxter made doubly-sure to re-lock the entrance of his makeshift hideout; after all, the last thing he needed was someone stumbling across the various gizmos and gadgets he had in the works and putting them to nefarious use!
But time was of the essence, with lives potentially teetering in the balance. With a great fwhiip of metal wings unfurling, the Bee-Keeper took to the skies, the roar of air flush in his ears as he soared towards Riverside with all the speed he could muster. He was going to have to get back on the proverbial horse eventually; it might as well be now.
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It didn't take long for the Bee-Keeper to reach the scene of the crime, lead on by the telltale sounds of police radios and the barking of orders. Even before his arrival though, it was clear things weren't going very well, and as he crested over the tallest of Riverside's buildings, it became clear why.


From his aerial vantage point, Baxter could see that Freedom's Finest were already on the scene, and equally worse for wear. A pair of police cruisers and what looked to be an unmarked van took up the bulk of the entryway; the aforementioned van looking more like it belonged to some sort of soccer mom than it did the four policemen sequestered behind it, one of them clutching her shoulder in obvious pain. While it might have been alarming in and of itself that these armed officers of the law were hunkered down behind larger cover, what really set the stage was the left-most cruiser. Where it had been parked, it now sat practically sheared in two; not from a blade or laser blast, but almost as if it had been melted clean through -- like some sort of homage to some kind of bizarre science-fiction film. Even from this height the smoldering smoke of the ruined vehicle were visible, wafting into the air on the slightly mellowed afternoon heat.


Whatever was going on inside the E-Sea Banking Building obviously wasn't going in-favor of the cops, and they definitely seemed in dire need of assistance!

Edited by SpicyWaffle
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Furling his brow, Baxter could already feel the pit of stomach twisting itself into a painful knot. In the distance the sound of sirens brought him some measure of comfort, but even still, the situation down on the street wasn't exactly looking good. Someone -- or something -- had taken a swath out of that police cruiser; probably the same thing that had winged the officer huddled down with her colleagues by that van! Whatever it was, it was plain as day that the officers and whomever else was inside were in serious danger... danger, Baxter surmised, that couldn't wait to be dealt with. The last thing he needed on his conscience was more of Freedom City's police force getting hurt in the line of duty when he might be able to help.


Descending from his lofty position, the yellow-and-black clad apian set foot beside the quartet of officers, their faces shifting in a score of emotions ranging from surprise, to relief, and then anger.


"Whoa, whoa! Chill out, guyzz! I'm here to help!" pleaded Baxter, hands upraised defensively in hopes they wouldn't pop him one with their sidearms. "Bee-Keeper III. You folkzz okay? What'zz goin' on in there?"

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A brief pause followed the hero's plea, but eventually the officers relented, lowering their weapons in a combination of relieved sighs and concerned exchanges.


"Glad to see you," an older policeman nodded, taking only a moment to peek over through the passenger-side window at the still open Eastern Seaboard Bank doors before hunkering back into position alongside his blue-clad compatriots. "I'm Murphy. This is DiNello and Masterson. McGreary over there's the one who pushed my ass out of harm's way," he said, pointing out each officer with his free hand before turning his attention fully to the Bee-Keeper. The woman, McGreary, gave a faint nod; one hand clutched over her shoulder while the other kept a tight grip on her piece. By the looks of her wound, she seemed to have suffered the same fate as the car, though to a much less drastic degree. The sleeve of her uniform had been torn off frantically, the rest seemingly melted or scorched beyond recognition. Her arm, though still intact, looked like it'd seen better days; once a shade of light mocha, now bright red and pus-laden.


"Thought it was just a routine robbery," she said through grit teeth, peering around the side of the van beyond Bee-Keeper's sight. "There's just one of them in there, we think. But she's got hostages... and melts everything she touches," she continued, pausing only momentarily to signify the car and her own injury as evidence to this claim. "When we pulled up and asked the perps to surrender, she just... she was the only one to step out, a smile on her face. She flung her arm out like some kind of tentacle. Ripped right through the car. Nearly took me and Murphy with it."


"Don't let her fool you," Masterson added, his face as sour as McGreary's looked pained. "She looks soft, but she's dangerous. Real dangerous. You'd better be careful if you're planning on stepping in."

Edited by SpicyWaffle
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Acid. Lovely. Baxter'd been shocked, socked, fried, and pelted by small projectiles... but acid? If the young Bee-Keeper had learned anything in his high school chemistry class, it was that acid was the burn that kept on burning; a trait, Baxter admitted, he wasn't looking forward to experiencing first-hand.


"Lookzz harmlezz. Izzn't. Meltzz zztuff. Got it," repeated the Bee-Keeper, cementing what little knowledge of the situation he'd procured. It'd been a while since Baxter had stepped into the fray... not since the Day of Wrath, in fact. It was both refreshing to be out here in-costume, but also terrifying; a combination of emotions Baxter wasn't all that unfamiliar with. He remembered how it felt the first time, back in the Hunter Museum when those whackos showed up. The fire at the Lacrenza Building. The weird cash-golems.


Just like then, Baxter had a job to do.


"You guyzz zztay here. Try and keep thingzz locked down out here while I deal with thizz nutjob and get the hozztagezz out. Should be eazzy peazzy."


At least that was what the Bee-Keeper hoped. If it was just one culprit behind this whole mess, then at least he wouldn't be staring down a bunch of jerks who wanted to punch him in the face -- a nice change of pace given his previous track record with super-criminals. Guess he'd find out soon enough, though.


Rising from his hunched position, the metal-clad apiary avenger strode forward towards the E-Sea Bank; confident, but cautious in his approach.

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As the Bee-Keeper entered the main foyer of the Eastern Seaboard Bank, it soon became clear just how dangerous the individual in question was. Pressed up with his back to the teller's counter was a man -- a security guard, by the looks of him -- with his leg clutched solidly in both hands over a vicious looking burn. His face was contorted in pain and anguish, the firearm he once carried flung away and dissolved into little more than remnants of its former self. It looked like whatever brief scuffle went on ended in disaster for the poor guardsman, and with an injury like that, it was unlikely he was going anywhere anytime soon. Meanwhile, in the center of the room, large sacks of money had been piled up in plain view; no doubt the would-be spoils of this particular caper.


"Oh, look. A hero's come to ruin my plans," came a cold and callous taunt from across the room. Standing boldly out in the open, this had to be the one behind these shenanigans. Clad in a grey, spotted jumpsuit with matching domino mask and hood, the woman poised between the melted vault bars stood defiant, her physique more reminiscent of some sort of academic who frequently starved themselves than an athletic scrapper. Though still young, her eyes bore a tiredness that belied her age; likely in her early- to mid-thirties, what hair she left revealed was as dark as midnight, cut short and combed forward. From behind her, the Bee-Keeper could make out two other shapes, their faces marred with fear in equal measure. Unlike their more antagonistic counterpart, the ladies behind her wore nice suits -- not quite tailor-made, but nonetheless professional in appearance.


"Please! You've got to help us!" cried the younger of the two captive women, though her plea was quickly silenced by a loathsome glare from the costumed villainess guarding the vault. It was the kind of glance that wasn't so much fueled by hate or malice, but of someone desperate and in a hurry.


"I don't have time to mess around. I've got places to be, important things to do. Why don't you just buzz off, bug boy? Nobody else needs to get hurt today," the middle-aged woman noted, brow creasing as she readied herself for conflict. Where one might see a body tense, intent on delivering vicious blows, hers was... different. Off, and in a strange way. It was almost as if her entire physique quivered, like a string that had been plucked too hard, or drink that had been around by someone as they walked across a room. It was alien and foreign; but more so than that, it was scary. It wasn't just the bizarre shivering of the supervillainess' body, either, but the conviction in her eyes.


Purpose. She had a purpose, and it was clear she was willing to fight for it if she had to.

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For Baxter there was something disconcerting about a criminal who got straight to the point. The lack of quips and cheesy one-liners, that void of witty word-play and long-winded monologues... this wasn't some classical antagonist, addled in the head or fueled by some bizarre notion of honorable villainy. No, the Bee-Keeper could see it in the woman's eyes: that fiery determination sparked with something familiar, yet also strange and dangerous.


"No can do, lady," the Bee-Keeper retorted, fists clenching as he began to make his way closer towards the stacks of bags poised in the center of the lobby. "If I juzzt let you go, you'll juzzt pull zzomething like thizz again. Then more people are at rizzk, and we're right back where we zztarted!"


Pausing for a moment, Baxter surveyed the scene again. He was in quite the pickle. On the one hand, the culprit was right there in the vault. She had no where to run if he were to rush her. On the other, though, were two women who could suddenly become human shields if things went awry. Instinct told him to risk it, to try and take her by surprise. If he rushed her, maybe he could take her down before she had a chance to do something they'd all regret.


No, this was a delicate situation. He had to be careful. Patient. Not rush headlong into more danger, if at all possible. Inside the helmet, the familiar chatter of FCPD's police force piqued his attention momentarily -- that backup was getting close. Not just close enough for him to pick up on through the suit either; she could hear it, too, and that same danger in her eyes almost became primal. Fight-or-flight.


"C'mon. You can't zztay in here forever. The copzz'll have thizz plazze zzurrounded in minutezz, and then we'll all be zztuck. Why don't you juzzt zzurrender nizze and eazzy? Thezze guyzz didn't do anything to you. They don't dezzerve thizz, right?"

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