Myrtle crawled to a corner of the roof, reached into her inside jacket pocket, pulled out a bag of powder. She pinched some powder between two fingers, spoke some words, blew the powder into the air. Much of the smoke cleared.
The others, those who had been choking, were now able to take in fresh air, and to see Gladys and Dante being overwhelmed by Beekeepers.
October was near Myrtle. Her eyes wet from coughing, she asked “What the hell is happening?”
“Seems like we’re fighting Beekeepers,” Myrtle said. “I can’t do much more to help. What have you got?”
The helmet hadn’t protected Clint from the smoke. He’d coughed and coughed until he’d fallen over. He’d been helpless.
When the air cleared, Clint saw his new teammates in combat against a bunch of people in suits like Adam’s. Beekeepers used smoke, he was sure he’d seen that somewhere. These pricks had come into his town and made him helpless.
Clint stood up, felt the energy from the helmet course through his veins. The nearest Beekeeper was facing away, trying to find some way to flank Gladys and Dante.
Clint punched the prick right in the back of the head.
October had been in fights as a kid and never liked them.
Now she was here, on a roof with a team of strangers being attacked by Beekeepers and God knows why. She didn’t like this either.
She didn’t know these people. She’d seen the Street Sentry in action and he seemed like a good guy. He was on her side. That one weird old lady and the scary guy were too, but that was less comforting.
And Adam. He was just standing there. Angry? Sad? Both. He’d really wanted this team thing to work out.
October joined the fray.
Joining Adam’s team should have improved Myrtle’s life. Dante was right, she wanted more than a failing bakery and memories of youth badly spent.
But she’d been in the Secret Factions Wars. Hiding and watching allies she’d only just met get beaten down by superhuman enemies brought back unwanted memories. Not a lot of normal people had survived those wars.
Then she saw a Beekeeper fall to one knee. Another tripped and fell forward. It was Snakes. Snakes slithering around the fight, coiling around the feet of Beekeepers, avoiding her team entirely.
Myrtle stood up and recited a nearly-forgotten incantation.
The scene was a mess. Adam’s allies, people he has only briefly known, fought a group of Beekeepers he has known since his childhood.
Adam’s aunt Abuya was there among the attackers. And there was his friend Chris, with whom he had lived with for a month when he was thirteen. There was old Mr. Njoku, of whom Adam had always been unreasonably afraid. And there, Daluchi, whom he had dated for a time. And all the rest were faces Adam had seen around for decades.
Adam stood between the violence and his hive. He would not involve the bees.
Myrtle Wiseacre manipulated strange mystical forces, giving the team whatever advantage she could find.
Gladys Blue moved quickly, jumping and flipping, preventing the Beekeepers from flanking the team.
Clint Rojas, the Street Sentry, stayed on the offensive, striking out with powerful fists at any foe that came within reach.
October Bradshaw stuck beside her allies and, where possible, found opportunities for precision attacks that others had not noticed.
Nineteen Snakes pinned down any foe who was knocked off their feet.
Jason Dante grabbed a Beekeeper by the throat and began to squeeze.
Adam Obianu shouted for his allies to stop.
“We need not kill anyone,” Adam told Dante. “The point has been made.”
Dante released the Beekeeper, who backed away choking.
Adam addressed the Beekeepers. “I hope you see what has happened here. You came, insisting that my anger could lead to violence. I admit it has done in the past, so your concerns were not unfounded. But the violence today was not caused by my anger, though I assure you I am angry, this was caused by your foolishness. You can call me naive, but recognize your own failings as well. I have no interest in returning with you.”
Adam looked Mr. Njoku directly in the eye. “I am not coming with you. I am staying here, in my home. Leave now.”
Njoku turned to the other Beekeepers. They gathered together and spoke in hushed tones.
Adam took the moment to check on his team. “Is everyone okay?”
Gladys gave a thumbs up. Snakes reformed into their semi-humanoid mass within their coat. The others nodded.
“I don’t think Beekeepers are as tough as they used to be,” Dante said, cracking his knuckles.
“They are,” Adam said. “But your ferocity exceeds any level of toughness.”
They could hear sirens approaching.
The Beekeepers turned back to Adam. “We will leave you,” said Mr. Njoku. “But the eyes of the Beekeepers shall ever be upon you.”
Adam stood tall. “If that is an offer to come to our aid should we earnestly require it, I appreciate it. If it is a threat, I assure you that you will not act upon it without coming to regret it.”
Njoku nodded almost imperceptibly. Another Beekeeper waved a smoke. Another dark plume billowed forth. Njoku stepped into the smoke and vanished. The others began to follow.
Below, a firetruck stopped in front of the shop.
Gladys looked down at the flashing lights. “They think we’re on fire. Someone should go handle that.”
October headed for the fire escape. “I have connections in the fire department,” she said. “I’ll talk to them.”
Adam watched as the Beekeepers continued their retreat into the smoke until only one remained. Adam’s aunt Abuya approached him. “Take this,” she said. She offered him a small ornate box. “I’ve been looking after them for you.”
Adam took the box and opened it. Bees. Survivors left over from his first hive. He looked back up, but Abuya was gone with the smoke.