LW13: a Realm Defenders' Story - Springflowers spring forth

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LW13: a Realm Defenders' Story - Springflowers spring forth

Aflima, Warrior of Fire
The cafeteria wasn't particularly full when Aflima entered, to his surprise. Friendly battle tended to make people hungry, but for whatever reason the various teams taking part in this edition's tournament seemed relatively subdued. Perhaps the cloud of the World Corps' activities put a damper on things, Aflima thought, before he spotted one of his friends in conversation with a pair of people in BADGE-affiliated uniforms. He walked towards them, waving his arm in greeting.

"Oh, hi!" called out Rosa, waving back. "Aflima, let me introduce you to -"

The two women chatting with Rosa turned with bright smiles, making Aflima instinctively grin in his flirtatious manner before taking on a more serious look.

"Agent Trailene Torfield," said the taller of the women, brushing her auburn hair back with one hand. "Excited to meet you. We've been fans of you guys since the very first league tourney."

Aflima resumed smiling. "Appreciate the support, ma'am."

The other woman, slightly older and with dark brown hair tied in a bun, chimed in. "I'm Agent Janice Rollin. Trailene and I are both from North Carolina. We actually didn't know each other until we both wound up working for BADGE. A lucky coincidence we got put in the same unit. But we both share a rooting interest in you guys."


Aflima and Rosa were sharing stories with Agents Trailene and Janice in the waiting room while watching their leaguemates battle. While Tri-blade was doing as expected with little issue, it was a different story for Ability Mage. Last tournament, Ability Mage's results were the difference between a medal and the proverbial wooden spoon for their team, and it was perhaps more than a coincidence that a rematch with the SOB league was first up for the Realm Defenders unit. And yet again, the results of Ability Mage's matches was primed to determine the final outcome. They trailed, but they were in striking distance.

As it turned out, Rosa was soon on the edge of her seat; Ability Mage had won a close encounter to bring the scores nearly level; another victory would tie the series. Alas, a mistake in a prior match meant that a bold risk was needed. Rosa bit on her non-existant nails, her anxiety clear to see. Agents Trailene and Janice cheered loudly, while Aflima paced the room.

Sweat pouring across his forehead, their long-time ally leapt into the fray again.

A few minutes later, he was reeling.

Rosa put her head in her hands.

Aflima looked on as Ability Mage shrugged off assistance, regained his footing and called upon another opponent. He tried again, was defeated again.

Some of the crowd jeered and called on him to give up. The calls were ignored and Ability Mage charged in a third time. Seemingly inspired, Ability Mage gave as good as he got, and to the stunned silence of the hecklers, pulled out a surprise victory to bring the scores closer yet again.

"He sure has heart," commented Agent Janice to nobody in particular.

"Heart is good," replied Agent Trailene, "but strength is better. I'm worried."

Ability Mage, on pure adrenaline, rushed in again, throwing punches and kicks rapidly. His opponent blocked each one.

"He's going to wear himself out. Slow down!" cried out Aflima.

The SOB opponent waited, parrying the onslaught. He took a step backwards, and drew a somewhat unfocused Ability Mage in to close the distance. With a shout, the SOB member counterattacked with an energy blast, driving Ability Mage against the wall. Ability Mage was unable to recover and two follow-up strikes later, slumped to the ground in defeat.

"Over, again," sighed Aflima. He looked to the big screen, and saw Tri-blade in the distance. He watched as Tri-blade's shoulders slumped, before his old friend jogged over to tend to Ability Mage.

* Aflima, Warrior of Fire - ID 10898 *
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LW13: a Realm Defenders' Story - Springflowers spread petals

Aflima, Warrior of Fire
This post was updated on .
"Hey Allyson!" called Rosa. The hero known as Crossroads turned to face Rosa with a smile on her face. They eagerly embraced in greeting.

"How's the tournament been going for you guys?"

"We've done well so far. Everyone's been awesome. But..."

"You got WMD next."

"We got WMD next," Crossroads nodded. She sighed heavily. Rosa put an understanding hand on Crossroads's shoulder.

"Hey," said Rosa after a moment's silence, "on another note, you have any idea what's going on with BADGE and Nova? For some reason everything seems so subdued. I thought I saw Gar pacing a hallway but he looked out-of-sorts. Have BADGE outlaid any plans going forward?"

Crossroads shook her head. "I know as much as you do. Only thing I could suggest is stay alert. Once this tournament is over I'd expect an announcement of sorts... but other than that, I have nothing."

"Thanks Allyson. Well good luck," Rosa said as she walked away.

"One other thing," said Crossroads.


"Be on alert for a particularly handsy rabbit. I owe him a good boxing after the last time he 'bumped' into me."

Rosa's eyebrows raised, then she nodded and waved to her friend.


In another wing, Starmaster and Aflima were chatting at a table. They were sharing battle notes with each other, and chuckling at some of the more hilarious moments of previous encounters.

"You avoided me in the head-to-heads," laughed Starmaster.

Aflima shot a slim tendril of fire past Starmaster's head, smiling as it harmlessly dissipated. "Yeah, yeah. Recovery after the first rounder. We should be well-rested for Round 3. Looks like you guys are on track to get you another championship belt."

Starmaster shrugged, then said, "Going to give it our best. And you guys inadvertently gave us a ton of good data on our next opponent. Next tournament you're going to have to shake things up on your side."

"We're certainly overdue, but circumstances have led to us in this spot for now. We'll see what happens in the next couple months."

"Looking forward to seeing the results."

Starmaster and Aflima exchanged a fist-bump.


Ability Mage was fastening his wrist straps when Tri-blade walked into the locker room. Tri-blade nervously looked around, then approached.

"One more go. Then another patch of green," smirked Ability Mage.

"Keep your head up. As they say, the journey is its own reward."

"Thanks for trying, Tri. What's up? You seem nervous."

Tri-blade pulled a bench over, and sat on it to face his teammate. "We don't know what Nova is up to. Since the tournament was announced up to now. Zilch. I had hoped that at some point we'd be given the lowdown but it hasn't come. Now while I don't think BADGE itself is compromised OR that Nova himself is corrupted, there's clearly something amiss that we're not privy to. I don't like it. When this is over we may need to go a bit more off-the-grid ourselves. Possibly only keep contact among ourselves, and Analisa and Devra.

"Keep all ears on World Corps' communications, as normal. Listen to whatever BADGE has to say as well,... but trust nobody. Everyone here may be a potential risk."

"How can we ensure nothing gets tripped up on our end?" asked Ability Mage.

Tri-blade replied, "I don't like this, but I'm going to ask Rosa to do the briefest of mental scans on everybody we're in contact with going forward. If there's anybody she sees that's potentially suspect, we go into high alert."

The PA announcement of the final round of matches interrupted the brief silence.

Tri-blade rose first, Ability Mage shortly afterwards. "The others will be here soon. Let's keep things as low key as we can."


"And, go get 'em in the arena. Let's do it."

* Aflima, Warrior of Fire - ID 10898 *
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LW13: a Realm Defenders' Story - Springflowers blooming

Aflima, Warrior of Fire
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"Holy coconuts," muttered Aflima.

"What happened?" replied Rosa with a look of concern.

Aflima pointed at the scorecard for the final round fixtures. "Two of their guys challenged Ability Mage and lost... this was likely going to be a dead rubber, but suddenly I think we may have a chance tonight."

Rosa frowned. "Really?"

"Nobody, well apart from Tri, hates getting false hope as much as me,... but if those guys in Omniversal Guardians aren't paying attention or have members unavailable then just maybe there's a chance at avoiding a wooden spoon..."

"Green badge."

"Whatever. Let's find your godpa."


They waited and watched. Battles were fought and scorecards were ticking over across the arena. Bookies and punters alike showed that although moods may be sombre, betting action remained fierce and vociferous. Only one of the top 9 division scoreboards held firm through the hours. Realm Defenders held 3 points, the third point being courtesy of Aflima thwarting a challenge. Ability Mage, Tri-blade, Rosa and Aflima sat still.

"I feel sorry for anybody with a rooting interest. I bet even Trailene and Janice are feeling bummed," said Rosa.

"Hang in one hour more. The longer we wait and the longer they don't show their hand, the better our chances. If we're fortunate then we may not even need to take any dangerous risks," said Tri-blade.

"You said the quiet part out loud," chuckled Ability Mage.

"You're our ace in the hole, buddy, but if all goes well we can keep it in the pocket."

Time ticked onwards. Eventually the final hour was at hand. Tri-blade got to his feet, Aflima and Rosa right behind.

"Me, Rosa, you," Tri-blade said the Aflima. All goes well you'll be in position to tie and then take the lead. Anything goes astray, you try and make up the deficit and we roll the dice with Mage. Cake?"

"Easy as," said Aflima with a thumbs-up.

After Tri-blade and Rosa went through their matches without blemish, Aflima was so excited that he nearly forgot to double-check his Hatoraide content - it would be a bit embarrassing if they fell short due to a failure to count inventory. He went through his paces, keeping alert and aware as he successfully vanquished the challenged opponents. Fortune favoured him; nobody switched to counter-attack him unawares, and within a matter of minutes his team was within single point with Aflima having a maximum of two wins to achieve.

His penultimate fight went smoothly and his team officially tied the score. In another part of the arena, Tri-blade was tapping Ability Mage's shoulders, encouraging him to stay ready.

With literal fire in his steps, Aflima surged forward with his last challenge. It was over in an instant. His team had the lead. He looked around. Agents Trailene and Janice were exchanging high-fives, but the few others in the audience seemed focused on the Outlaws-AV51 battles nearby. With a shrug, Aflima walked to join his teammates.

The buzzer sounded and Tri-blade let out a sigh of relief. The entire team joined together in a group embrace.


Agents Trailene and Janice walked by Rosa on their way to the recently commissioned Springflower aircraft - the vessel was a loaner from BADGE but Tri-blade insisted on full purchase, followed by a paint job to signify a new bloom for their unit. After the tournament concluded, the two BADGE agents and fast pals of Rosa asked to be included on their journey home as they were on leave on the tournament conclusion.

Rosa closed her eyes briefly, then gave Tri-blade a quick nod. Everybody boarded the aircraft and once everybody was settled in they began the journey.

"You guys good back there? Turian? Speedy?" asked Aflima from the main controls area. Turian, a tank of a man with a quiet disposition, grunted happily while Flashbulb smiled and gave a thumbs-up sign. They were each seated in the rear, and Turian immediately found the recline option on his chair and would probably be asleep within a minute. Aflima turned his chair to face forward and assist Tri-blade with the flight.

"What will you do back home?" asked Rosa to Agent Janice in the middle section.

Janice's grin was wide. "Horse riding, kayaking, getting back to nature, I love it all. If I can convince Trailene to join me, we'll have a ball! Right, Trai?"

Trailene's head didn't move, she was focused on filing her nails. "Oh, of course."

Janice continued, "The town shuts down for a county fair this weekend, too. It's a bit old fashioned, but I love it. Too bad you're tied up, Rosa, you'd have a ball too. It's really the most amazing experience you could -"

A loud bang, and Janice's words evaporated as a gunshot pierced the centre of her chest. Her mouth still open, she toppled over onto the carpeted floor.

Everybody turned in shock to see Agent Trailene, now standing and holding a railing with one hand, a dual laser gun in the other. She scanned the room and her innocent-looking smile was no longer there.

"But, how?" asked Tri-blade as he shot to his feet.

"Why?" asked Rosa simultaneously, her eyes watering.

"I may only have a smattering of morphons, not enough to make me a super or catch the eye of BADGE for potential assignment to a league or metahuman branch, but enough to warrant the attention of a group that was willing to pay well and offer incentives to create some discord within certain leagues. Enough to know when certain people have the ability to mentally scan and influence others."

Trailene stared at Rosa as she continued.

"And enough to know how to shield inner thoughts, project a farce, while also being fully aware of everybody else. You silly fools. Tri-blade here had enough sense to know something may have been up, but not enough to avoid being deceived by someone willing to indulge in enough small talk. Your guard was up to detect thoughts, but you didn't even have the foresight to detect weapons. Amateur, really."

"Your shield is certainly down now," grimaced Rosa. "I can fully sense your malice. But you haven't said why. Why us, and why Janice."

"Janice, a means to an end. Nice woman, pure at heart. But still, a means to an end. As for why..."

Trailene released her hold on the rail, and pulled out another device which had the appearance of a whip. The others' eyes grew wider than usual.

"Well, it's the riches, of course. And bad girls, as they say, have all the fun."

She threw the gun and simultaneously lashed out with the whip. The whip transformed into a stream of red-hot fire and slashed through the ceiling and equipment unimpeded. Aflima tried to dash at her but was caught by the follow-through and was thrust against the side panel.

Dropping the gun, she reached into her pockets and drew out a number of small grenades. They were tossed into the air and and instant before they landed, she flicked a tab on her suit and vanished.

"Not enough time..." was the rapid thoughts of Aflima as he took to flame and tried to run in front of Rosa for protection. To his left, he saw Tri-blade throw his hands out reflexively.

"You forgot... you can no longer teleport..."


The aircraft exploded, and showered debris across a wide swath of land, a land filled with tall grass and budding flowers.

* Aflima, Warrior of Fire - ID 10898 *
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LW13: a Realm Defenders' Story - Epilogue: The demise of the Springflower

Aflima, Warrior of Fire
In reply to this post by Aflima, Warrior of Fire
The man in a badly tattered hero costume struggled to gain his footing on the loose gravel. The sky, ashen in appearance, did nothing to alleviate the feeling of loss and despair by the weary human. As panic set in, he thought back to the moments before he was blasted away and hurtled to parts unknown.

He wished that he had more time to grab someone - anyone. It may have been futile, grabbing someone only for them to be caught between incinerating fire and an explosive blast, but it would have given him some solace in feeling that he had made some difference.

He looked around. There appeared to be some wreckage not far away. The man took a step towards it, but his leg buckled and he toppled over, rolling onto his back.

His comms link was destroyed, there was no immediate reaching out to anybody for assistance.

With a grunt, he rolled his body over and could make out what appeared to be the tail of the aircraft they were once flying upon, with no knowledge that a traitor was in their midst. They were well-deceived, and well-beaten as a result.

He stared. The flower imprinted on the top portion was singed. The symbol of his team's springing back, peeled off by a gentle breeze and floated to the ground.

"Dev... I need her..." thought Aflima as he lost consciousness.

* Aflima, Warrior of Fire - ID 10898 *