Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story

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Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story

"Thank you for agreeing to meet with me so quickly, Tri-blade, Aflima, Macaia's Daughter," said Director Nova as he rose from his chair to greet the trio. The leader of BADGE was clad in his typical attire of black armored suit, although there was zero prospect of conflict in the orbital space station many kilometres above the planet's surface.

"Oh, you can call me Rosa," the young woman giggled as she shook the Director's hand. Her companions followed suit in greeting.

Tri-blade said, "It's really not a problem. But, judging from where we're meeting, this seems to be not a courtesy call, exactly." He motioned around the relatively small chambers to emphasize his point.

A hint of a smile came to Director Nova's lips. He nodded.

"An astute observation," said Nova. "One that would only be requested if the matter was one that demanded more discretion than others."

Nova did not return to his seat, his actions relaying the perceived severity of the situation at hand. The others looked onwards, waiting.

Nova looked at each of his visitors in turn. With a sigh, he pulled out a device from inside his jacket. With a gentle flick of a small button, an image projected outwards and displayed in mid-air between the members of the group. Everyone looked on as a map of the south eastern part of the United States came into view. Tiny white dots appeared next, concentrated within a smaller area on the map.

Director Nova said, "We have observed a peculiar situation currently still developing. The dots you see, they represent tiny, really miniscule crystals, that have very recently appeared in Florida. The crystals are so small that the general population haven't even detected this phenomenon. The good news is that they don't at this time seem harmful. We only detected these ourselves by chance but it's clearly something that demands at least some focus at this time."

Tri-blade nodded slowly in agreement.

"On the advice of Krystal Fae, we performed a proto-spectral analysis of this - at distance of course - and picked up some rather unusual signatures," continued Nova. "They are in large part a direct match to that of the S.H.C. dimension, which is well enough considering what Fulcrum and Vixen tried to accomplish some time back - but there's something else here."

"What could it be?" asked Aflima as he shifted his weight to another leg.

Tri-blade looked at Nova. "Something relevant to *our* dimensions, I'm guessing?"

Nova nodded briskly. "Correct again. It's something that we have not once picked up since the technology was developed to pinpoint source dimensions of any object within this one."

Tri-blade replied, "Odd. The three of us are in total control of any passages between the dimension where we come from, and this one. There are only three rings that are capable of generating portals between these realms. None of the three of us has been to Florida since coming to this dimension either. Most peculiar..."

With a grin, Aflima said in an eerie voice, "but they were all deceived... for another ring was made in secret..."

"I loved that series," said Tri-blade.

"As did I. Met the author years ago," said Nova, his stoicism diminished.

Rosa asked, "Is the situation getting worse? Is there a risk of something happening and government,... or worse yet that super 'sus' organisation' trying to exploit things?"

Nova nodded, this time at Rosa. "Not yet, but with moles already having infiltrated BADGE, this is something that I'd rather not put any of BADGE's main resources into. I'm suggesting - kindly of course - that you all  see if you can investigate independently. Is this something you can look into?"

"Of course," said Tri-blade. "We'll be on this as soon as possible."

[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Tampa, Florida, USA

The BADGE shuttle landed near a waterside dock and Rosa embraced the bright, warm sunshine. With a skip in her step she approached the hovercraft to find a familiar face behind the steering wheel.


"Seriously, dear. Were you expecting one of your crushes to be meeting you here instead?" replied Analisa with a smirk.

"I don't have any crushes," pouted Rosa.

"With that look on your face, they surely won't be interested."

Rosa put her face in her hands. "Mom you're teasing me way too much in your old age."

They shared a look then laughed simultaneously.


"So why are we spread out like this instead of focusing on one area at a time?" asked Analisa as she looked over the map points. The hovercrraft had switched to full vehicle mode and was now travelling along one of the busy highways. It was too large to be inconspicious but over recent years, most people didn't give a second look to out-of-the-ordinary vehicles as superhero groups and BADGE teams became relatively more commonplace.

"Partly so we don't draw as much attention as a full squad would, also because there seem to be a ton of these things," replied Rosa. "The Director seems keen on getting things figured out quickly."

"Fair enough," grimaced Analisa as she pulled a lever and yanked the wheel. The hovercraft rapidly veered off the highway and towards the marshland.


Jacksonville, Florida, USA

"Is the pro gridiron team here the same one you support in your home realm, Tri?" asked Agent Squires. The part-time BADGE agent peered through her enhanced googles at the skyline of one of Florida's larger cities.

Tri-blade nodded. "At least in this realm they're a semi-competent franchise. But let's get a move on."

Before leaving the orbital space station Tri-blade arranged for Agents Squires and Aksoy to link up with them for logistical support; while not full-fledged members of any taskforce outside of BADGE, they had on separate occasions shown themselves to be clever and adaptible, and Tri-blade had struck up a good friendship with the Barbados-born Squires.

So as to not draw a scene, Agent Squires had 'arranged' for roadworks to take place at strategic points bordering the suspected location of one of the crystals.

With the tracking device on hand, the duo crossed the intersection on foot.

"Really good job there, Meesh," smiled Tri-blade.

Agent Squires replied, "Like cake. No worries."
[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Miami, Florida, USA

Agent Onur Aksoy crouched behind a tree next to the Jade Flamingo, one of the most popular nightclubs in the city. A short distance behind, Aflima scanned the area. He whispered in his comms to his current partner.

"Why are they here?"

"The only thing I can guess is that they've detected an anomaly themselves," said Aksoy with gritted teeth.

They looked on as three soldiers, wearing combat gear with the insignia of World Corps on each shoulder, were in conversation amongst themselves. One person waved an arm out as to indicate they wanted a perimeter set up.

"Does our tracker put the crystal in this area?" asked Aflima.

Agent Aksoy replied, "Affirmative. We're going to have to either take them out -"

"Or distract them and get them out of the area. Lend me your jacket."

Shortly after, Aflima shot up into the sky and Agent Aksoy resumed scanning the scene.


The bolt of fire seared the ground, the sound of the blast causing Agent Aksoy to flinch even though he was nearly a city block away. The soldiers immediately turned to see what had caused that action. In unison they walked towards the smouldering roadside.

"Fear me!" cried a voice from above as fireballs began to rain.

The soldiers pulled out laser rifles and fired upwards but missed their target. A figure burning bright red swooped down to within a few feet of one soldier then dashed away. The trio of soldiers began pursuit.

As they rounded a corner, they nearly bumped into a man sitting in the street, slumped over slightly and wearing a black and brown jacket. The man pointed at an office building at the end of the road.

"He... went that way... might be injured..." said Aflima in a raspy voice.

Perhaps the soldiers weren't fully trained, or were too stunned by this event, to stop and question, but each of them broke into a run without looking back.

Aflima shrugged, then dashed back to his teammate.

Daytona Beach, Florida, USA

Jake considered himself woefully underequipped for field work, but Analisa had told Tri-blade that she had every confidence in his abilities and as such he got the opportunity to link up with the very figure whose presence allowed him to be able to do more than just provide tech support and analysis to a hero team.

He looked on with admiration at the Ability Mage, now fully recovered from his ordeals in this realm and prepared to assist his former and current teammates. Ability Mage's appearance was slightly unusual for a human - his skin colour a solid blue-grey and a lack of hair suggested possible alien origins, but he attested that apart from some morphon-induced physiology changes, he was no less human than Jake was.

"I'm not quite sure why the two of us aren't paired up with the others," muttered Ability Mage in a detached voice. "They suggested that my owning of a distinct Legion of Superheroes ring could enable us to make further inroads in the investigation."

"But you're not part of Tri-blade's and Aflima's realm," interrupted Jake.

"Right. I come from what you designate as S.H.C." said Ability Mage as he looked through his tracking device's display. He pointed at a series of sand dunes along a currently deserted beach. They walked more rapidly.

"I was brought here well before the others, however. I've lost track of how long I was here, alone and feeling as though nobody else was present. It's depressing, in retrospect. However, I have emerged on the 'other side'."

They stopped and gazed on as a crystal slowly grew and manifested into a faint image, almost a mirage. They could make its shape out clearly, but on the other hand they could see directly through it.

Jake stared. "Wow."

"Indeed," said Ability Mage.

"But, what... next?"
[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Near Jacksonville

As they set up their own 'perimeter' of sorts around the translucent crystal, Agent Squires suddenly asked, "Tell me more about this BrainChef character I've heard you guys mention from time to time... what is he?"

Tri-blade paused. It was never easy, despite having limited personal history with BrainChef, to discuss him outside of his closest friends' group, and not just because he had a bit of fear of his potential omnipresence in this realm.

"Well, the major issue is that nobody has really seen him, but we strongly believe he has a massive presence in this realm," began Tri-blade with a hint of stutter.

"Like a god or something?"

"I'm not quite sure how I'd define him, Meesh. We met him long ago in the SHC realm... and suffice it to say that he has capabilities that we can't fathom. They may be beyond that of even Strange Quark. We don't have evidence of his existence, but we are certain he exists in some form here. Maybe even the morphons are a part of the picture, but everybody is still learning."

Agent Squires frowned. "So clearly like a god, then."

Tri-blade shrugged. "Perhaps, Michelle. Wish I knew." Tri-blade thought hard about whether BrainChef had a presence beyond the bounds of space and time in this realm. Many months ago, he called upon BrainChef out of inspiration - or absent-mindedness, to no avail. But what good would it be to suggest that a person met in one realm was actually a deity who could create a brand-new realm - complete with its own universe - and make it seem like only a matter of years to the likes of himself, his allies, and other people from other dimensions? What would The Island, Zombie Ex, Jormy and others first met in SHC make of it?

Satisfied in the perimeter setup, Tri-blade made his way to the crystal. Agent Squires had attached the tracker to an upright set of computers to monitor everything about the anomaly. Data would be sent directly to a secure server at the RD Team's base with backup links at one of the 5th Precinct's labs and a program set on delay to relay data to BADGE.

Less than a metre away, Tri-blade gazed on, and listened.

Near Tampa

Rosa and Analisa approached the crystal slowly. Rosa felt as though she could hear both her mother's and her own heartbeats, such was the anxiety.

"It's okay to be nervous, but remember I'm here," came the reassuring voice of her mother.

As they closed the distance, the crystal seemed to become less translucent.

"It's responding to us, or at least one of us," Analisa noted. "The computer should be picking this up. I wonder if the others are experiencing similar." She held up a hand , brushing the crystal with her fingertips. She closed her eyes then drew back. "Nothing. I sense nothing."

She walked to her daughter. "Your turn, Rosa."

With a nod, Rosa stretched her own hand outwards in similar fashion. She let her hand rest on the crystal and relaxed her mind. There was nothing...

Just a faint hum.

Suddenly, a voice! A woman's voice! The words weren't decipherable, but Rosa could clearly sense a voice in distress.

"Mama, open your comms, please. We've got something."

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"Nothing's showing up on the scanners, Aflima, and the sensor isn't picking up anything besides a very low-pitched crackle," said Agent Aksoy.

Aflima kept his hand on the cystal. It had clearly grown larger since they first saw it, and he was convinced that he heard a voice. A male voice, he thought. But who - or what - could it be?

Rosa's voice over the comms interrupted Aflima's concentration briefly.

"Guys, I'm picking up a voice from the crystal. A female!"

"Huh. I'm picking up a male one on this end," shouted Aflima.

Tri-blade's voice joined the conversation. "Me too. It sounds like Doctor Toshio of all people."

Aflima shook his head. "That's not the voice I'm registering. Kind of odd, don't you think? Why would we be hearing voices, and distinct ones at that? Mage, how about you?"

Silence for a few seconds, then Ability Mage's voice came across. "I'm picking up absolutely nothing, sorry. But from what Tri-blade is suggesting, it may be logical to assume that these crystals may very well contain soul energy from anybody caught in what some call the EA-mageddon?"

"A good hypothesis," replied Tri-blade.

"All we can do is try to see if we can pick up on what the voices are saying," said Aflima.

Rosa said, "My 'person' is speaking a language I can't even guess at. Mom can't pick up the words to run through the translator device. All I can do is just keep listening, maybe I can communicate with it somehow."

"Try your best, then," said Aflima with a tinge of pity.

He resumed his focus on the crystal, feeling for the mysterious voice again and suspecting that he had heard that voice a long time ago in a realm no more.

Near Daytona Beach

Ability Mage was frustrated, but not surprised. Clearly there was a connection that his colleagues possessed that he did not. The question to him was essentially, what was the nature of that connection.

While continuing to touch and gaze at the crystal, he said to Jake, "A couple of ideas here..."

Jake replied quietly, "Which are?"

"The other three left the SHC realm through gates in Atlantis. There's a chance that Atlantean energy is involved in some way. Of course, with that realm no longer existing, there's no easy way to investigate that hypothesis further."

He stepped back and walked to the scanners, which as predicted, showed little activity.

"Or, as I was born wholly within the SHC realm and not a visitor like the others, I cannot sense what they do. It is peculiar to say the least. If we weren't on a secret mission, then someone like Krystal - who has similar albeit distinct attributes to our three - would be invaluable on the front lines here.

"But, we can only work with the tools provided to us. Let's get a measurement -"

Suddenly, over the comms came Analisa's voice, frantic and panicked. "Rosa's vanished!"

This was soon followed by Agent Squires, "Tri-blade's gone too! Teleported? It was almost too quick to notice!"

Agent Aksoy chimed in, "Aflima just disappeared too. What are these crystals doing!"

Jake said to Ability Mage, "Oh boy. What do we do now?"

Ability Mage's eyebrows furrowed in deep thought.
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Parts Unknown

Rosa found herself falling, but very slowly. She was bewildered yet unfrightened by this strange turn of events. Looking around, there appeared to be various platforms suspended in mid-air among a dark grey sky. She looked downwards and was surprised to see that there didn't appear to be a floor to this strange place.

"Have to get to one of these platforms," she thought to herself.

Flipping her body, she attempted to propel her body diagonally. It initially didn't seem to have impact but after a couple of minutes she could see that she was drifting away from the centre of her initial descent, and a platform was within reach.

"Gotcha," she said as she grabbed hold of the edge of one and pulled herself up.

Rosa finally took the time to look upwards. She lost count of how many platforms she could see above her, but was able to see a way that she could traverse them and make her way upwards.

With her first leap, she soon discovered that gravity was not going to be much of a hindrance. Finding the correct platform to aim for as not to be stuck in a figurative dead-end would be the greater challenge.

"Why do I feel like I've played a game like this in the past?" she wondered.

Parts Unknown

The field of large red balloons extended in all directions. Aflima tried to rise and see further in the distance, but the low ceiling proved an effective barrier. Despite the limited range of vision, the visibility itself was quite clear as the room was well-lit by torches.

Aflima started to push balloons aside and walk straight ahead, but he soon realized the risk of getting himself lost in a sea of red. He paused, then scanned again. He shrugged, then began to chuckle. Fire grew in his hands.

With a yell, he thrust his arms out to each side. Flames emerged, destroying lines of balloons with satisfying pops. However, the instant that Aflima's arms returned to their natural state, the balloons reappeared, big and as red as ever.

He laughed loudly at the twist of fate, and began to jog. He didn't care about getting lost now - as long as the balloons were ever-present, he knew that he wasn't going anywhere. Either he would see something different, or he'd just run and run until exhaustion and delirium took over. At this point, delirium seemed to be well in the lead, mentally speaking.

Several minutes passed.

Aflima ran.

Then, he saw an orange balloon amidst the sea of red.

Aflima fell to the ground in hysterics.
[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Parts Unknown

For Tri-blade, getting through the obstacle course proved relatively easy, albeit tiring. Seeing a set of translucent boxes with question marks on them triggered fond memories of games played a long time ago and it was no difficult task to smash the boxes, collect the item inside - the first one being a flashing star that empowered him to run through a turtle-shaped enemy in front of him - and run as quickly as possible. He only hoped that the others - if they were also drawn into this strange place - would have similarly straightforward tasks.

He leaped over a bar that resembled a finish line, then the area flashed out of focus and Tri-blade found himself rising upward rapidly. He tensed his shoulders, hoping that he was hurtling towards an exit or at least a way to his friends.

The small platform slowed, then stopped with a thud. A loud growl reached Tri-blade's ears.

"Uh oh," he said to himself as he reached for one of his long daggers. He took a step forward at the same time as lights from above illuminated the space around him. Looking around, he saw that he was in a gladiator's arena. From the opposite end a large, dark shape emerged and ran on all-fours towards Tri-blade.

As it got closer, it jumped high, twisted and landed on two feet. It raised two long arms with four pointed fingers on each hand. Its skin was a very dark grey, rough in texture and extremely muscular. Its legs were like tree trunks and its feet had the appearance of flippers. Perched on a thick neck, the creature's head resembled a demon with sharp-looking horns emerging from the rear and sides, sunken eyes of pitch-black colour and a mouth lined with small razor-like teeth of a yellow hue.

As the creature swung one arm down only to be parried away, Tri-blade pondered quickly the identity of the beast.

"King... Oni?"

Tri-blade quickly jumped backwards to avoid a slash, and gazed at the creature. A long time ago in another realm, King Oni had terrorized the Japan of that realm, and it took a combined effort from various people to dispatch him for good... or so they had thought. How could this creature have survived?

Tri-blade dodged another arm then swung his blade against the back of the creature's thigh. The reverberation nearly knocked the dagger from Tri-blade's hand. He rolled away quickly before the creature could take advantage of the situation.

"Like freaking granite," muttered Tri-blade in exasperation. "But its arms aren't as resistant." He dived in, and with both arms clasping his weapon, swung upwards, striking just below its shoulder joint. The creature howled in immediate pain and stumbled backwards. Tri-blade pressed the advantage, striking it in the face with a gauntleted fist before another slash to the shoulder. The second strike drew a dark oozy substance that appeared to be blood. Tri-blade warily stepped back. 'King Oni' reached towards the wall of the arena and with his uninjured arm, yanked a massive spiked club and pointed it towards the shorter warrior.

A small beam of yellow energy shot out from the club, no danger to Tri-blade, but striking a portion of the wall opposite. From the large hole emerged another creature, this one wielding a battle axe. It immediately ran towards the pair, making no noise apart from the thud of its massive feet on the ground. This beast had relatively shot legs, a massive torso and no mouth to speak of, yet its body was of similar appearance as 'King Oni'. Wryly, Tri-blade shook his head, and smirked. He reached behind him and drew a second long dagger. It was looking like a slice-and-dice day.

He circled around the newcomer, briefly wondering if the two creatures would consider attacking each other, but that thought was short-lived as they charged at the same time. Two larger combatants didn't make for a promising equation with regard to a battle of weapons, so Tri-blade kept moving his position so that he wouldn't be caught in a pincer situation. 'King Oni' was clearly the more weary, but the axe-wielder was the more menacing of the pair at the moment.

Despite the long reach of the axe, its wielder continued to try and get even closer than needed for a strike, which allowed Tri-blade to pre-emptively dive in and slash at its exposed arms. Whether this being felt pain or not, Tri-blade couldn't tell, but it stumbled backwards nonetheless, and prevented 'King Oni' from making its own attack. Tri-blade took the opportunity to push forwards with a series of wide slashes across the arms and torso before jumping and delivering a two-footed kick at the creature's head. It fell over with a heavy crash and Tri-blade went after 'King Oni', only to be forced to evade a heavy swing from the spiked club. By some fortune, the club struck the other creature's foot and caused it to murmur something approaching a yell.

Tri-blade drew back his weapons, focusing his mind and drawing on his inner energies. As soon as the axe-wielder rose to his feet, Tri-blade thrust his arms forward, daggers aimed directly at both creatures. Bright bolts of energy shot out, and struck the axe-wielder in the chest and face. It toppled over again, and did not move after impact with the ground. Filled with confidence and adrenaline, Tri-blade aimed his weapons again. Another set of bolts emanated and struck the first creature directly in the chest. 'King Oni' did not fall, but the strike caused the club to be dropped. A cry of terror emerged from the creature's mouth. Without hesitation, Tri-blade swung the pair of daggers, and the bolt of energy that emerged took the shape of a crescent and blasted its way across the body of 'King Oni'.

It flew backwards, the force of the blast taking it airborne for a brief period before smashing into the wall. Like its compatriot, it did not stir afterwards.

Tri-blade looked around and saw a doorway that didn't exist prior. A bright light illuminated the doorway. With a shrug, the daggers were sheathed again and Tri-blade made his way forwards.
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Near Tampa, Near Jacksonville, Miami, Near Daytona Beach

Even though Analisa Velazqua Marquez was by some distance the most experienced and battle-hardened person among those that remained, she was acting in the most frantic manner over the shared comms.

"Remember, she's also a mom here," whispered Ability Mage to Jake at the Daytona Beach site.

"... check for spikes on the feed, everyone! Does anybody have a reading of temperature and humidity count? Have to check for fluctuations before and after the disappearance! Mage, should we buzz BADGE?..."

"Macaia," began Ability Mage, "We cannot contact BADGE, not here.

He took a breath, then continued solemnly, "Our mission has a great risk of compromise if we try to open a channel to BADGE. There's a good chance that World Corps has their hooks into the communications network that BADGE uses in this country. I think that it is prudent to monitor as best we can, then wait."

Analisa sighed heavily. "You're right. 20 minutes, then we re-evaluate?"

"Affirmative," said Ability Mage.

"Sounds good to me," added Agent Squires from the Jacksonville site.

Agent Aksoy said in a more hushed tone, "I may not have 20 minutes on this end. Those men may return at any minute and the crystal is becoming more visible by the second. It may be a case of conceal, fight or run, over here."

"If you have your BADGE kit you may be able to stall for time, play the diplomatic conflict game," offered Agent Squires.

Agent Aksoy nodded, forgetting briefly that his colleagues couldn't see him. "Better suggestion than anything I've thought of as yet. Will advise, but I don't have a Plan B for this."

Jake for the first time, spoke up. "I think we won't need to. Those guys in there, they'll find a way out."

Parts Unknown

Aflima had seen all kinds of enemy armaments during his time in the SHC realm, particularly those constructed by the invading forces from Zigon. Some were engineering marvels, others possessed an organic framework that befuddled most of the scientists in that realm, while still others were hybrids with incredible staying power. Their creation was a wonder that rivaled anything he had ever seen in his life. And not a single one of them proved easy to topple.

Looking upwards at the behemoth of a tank that resembled the greatest combination of Zigonian technology ever seen, Aflima simply wondered how many skyscrapers it could level with a blast from its collection of cannons and other weaponry mounted within the twin set of turrets on top. Aflima estimated that it was at least the height of four men, one of the largest battle vehicles he'd seen in person.

With a jerk, the main cannon whirled and shot an energy beam towards Aflima. He managed to dodge the blast with trademark dexterity before sending a fireball projectile of its own towards the tank. The frame of the vehicle took the impact without any noticeable damage, but Aflima managed to put some distance between them by jumping and then hovering in the air, his body taking on a slight orange-red glow fueled by his flame ability.

A well-placed firebolt destroyed the turret closest to him, the weapons within incinerated rapidly. A scream was heard from inside, but whether organic or robotic, Aflima couldn't tell. He didn't have time to ponder as rapid-fire shells hurtled in his direction, forcing him to roll away and rise higher.

A previously well-hidden hatch was revealed as one of the metal panels slid back. From it Aflima could make out the barrels of no fewer than 15 missile launchers.

"Oy," he muttered.

In succession, a number of missiles shot out. Aflima flew quickly to dodge, only to see the missiles respond and retarget themselves.

"Homing? Yeesh!"

Aflima considered himself pretty quick, even in limited space. However, being chased by 15 independently-calibrated missiles in enclosed space - while trying to avoid cannon fire and the weapons from the remaining turret - was truly a situation that one can't train for effectively without major risk. He avoided one of the missiles only to be caught in the left arm by a second, which exploded on contact, sending Aflima reeling towards the ground. Aflima screamed, but kept enough composure to roll away on impact, narrowly avoiding the third missile which also exploded, its force propelling Aflima thirty yards to the right... and directly in the sight of the main cannon.

"YAAAAAAAAAGH!" shouted Aflima as he dashed forwards, firing an immense stream of fire energy at the tank while oblivious to the remaining missiles bearing down on him.

The cannon pulsed, then shot its energy beam. Aflima jumped straight up in the air and the beam disintegrated the remaining missiles.

Filled with fury, Aflima turned his attention to the remaining turret. His good arm thrust forward and there was no question about targeting or accuracy, the bolt of flame was immense and unavoidable.

The cannon turned and Aflima saw his opportunity. The still-exposed hatch was visible.

Aflima roared and dived. His body became encased in flame as it sped towards the open area of the tank. In futile fashion, the panel began to close... but it was too slow. Aflima entered the open area.

A fraction of a second later, metallic and other shards burst outwards from the exploded vehicle. All that could be seen was a brilliant, crackling combination of orange, yellow and white flame. When it died down, Aflima stood alone, breathing heavily.

He looked ahead and saw a doorway. With a grunt, he leapt off the charred chassis.

"I almost wish it had just been more balloons," he sighed.
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This post was updated on .
Parts Unknown

Wrath. Envy. Lust. Greed. Gluttony. Sloth. Pride. She recognized the creatures that manifested as the Deadly Sins immediately, despite only limited interaction in the past.

A Deadly Sin?Rosa wasn't sure who was who at this point, but being outnumbered 7-1 by creatures larger and physically stronger meant she didn't have much time to think about anything else.

To her, her goal was straightforward - defeat them quickly and keep moving.

She gazed at the eyes of the shortest of them and tried to infiltrate their mind. Nothing there, just a hollow being. Were these shells of something more sinister behind the scenes?, she thought.

A Deadly Sin?Rosa ran hard to her left, trying to ensure that she wasn't surrounded by the creatures. She noticed that they lumbered around instead of walking or flying at her. The nearby platform offered a chance at putting a little more distance between her and the creatures; she took it eagerly, hopping on top. She considered reaching for her set of tonfas, but paused. She would have felt more confident taking the hand-to-hand route if it was just one or two of these monstrosities, but seven was well beyond her skills, despite her martial arts training having improved over the years.

The creature with the slivered protusions from its body was now the closest. This time Rosa didn't hesitate, and channeled her mental abilities in a different fashion than before. Focusing hard, she levitated the creature, who for its part didn't seem to react in a surprised manner but instead kept moving its legs in a futile effort to close the distance.

The telekinetic toss was successful, the slivery creature barrelling over the others. One of the dislodged monsters tumbled over and into a previously-unseen pit.

"Um... kay...," said Rosa with a combination of surprise and guilt.

She repeated her efforts, and each time she flung a monster, the last one knocked down rolled into a pit. In virtually no time at all, her amount of enemies dropped to a single one. Rosa had more than enough mental strength remaining to hoist the last one and 'toss' it away. It rolled and disappeared like the others.

"Keep on pushing," whispered Rosa to herself as a doorway appeared in the distance.
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Re: Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story

Parts Unknown

A wheelchair rested in the middle of the hallway. Perplexed, Aflima approached it slowly but without too much concern. For the first time in a while, he didn't feel worried or anxious, and even the pain in his arm was negligible.

Of its own accord the wheelchair spun around and Aflima beheld the sight of someone not seen in several years. He gazed on the thin, wizened face of one of the first people met in a realm once teeming now utterly destroyed.

"Professor..." said Aflima softly and with reverence.

"Professor, was it?" replied the man in the wheelchair. He stroked his chin and tilted his bald head. "Yes - I think that is what they called me. Although I remember others calling me by something else. I think it was Doctor Mental. Quite an odd title, I would suggest. I do hope it wasn't me who created such a discouraging label for myself."

He chuckled as his voice began to crack.

Motioning to Aflima, the Professor continued. "Come, help me out of this place, young man."

Aflima knew that the Professor was more than capable of moving the wheelchair of his own free will - and mind, but briskly walked to the old guide and mentor of the original group of heroes who wandered into his realm. He pushed the wheelchair slowly towards another doorway in the distance. Like the others before, white light emanated from it but it did not pierce the darkness for more than a metre.

Feeling a sense of worry for the first time, he gulped. "Professor, are you really here? Are you merely a memory in this bizarre place?

He stopped walking. "I'm sorry for asking."

The Professor's voice softened. "Do not stop pushing, Aflima."

They continued. "I shouldn't have asked."

"It is a reasonable question, considering what you have been through," replied the Professor, "although why you didn't ask if you were dreaming, or even deceased and in your own afterlife, is probably more unusual. Never fear asking questions. You are of age now where you don't need do doubt yourself. What happened to that fiery young man I first met in Manattan?"

Aflima smiled. "Age diminishes all flames," he chuckled.

The Professor nodded. "So I have heard. To answer your question is difficult, though. For you see, I did not leave SHC." His eyes closed and his head dropped as if recollecting the events of that day. "I was born and raised there. It was my only home. My abilities were best channeled in the training of others, and it gave me great joy. The feeling of making a difference. Even when Jefferson Night took the reins of mentorship and I was 'retired', I never lost that mirth. There was that period when my facilities were diminished and clouded, but as you know I regained it all. "

They were near the doorway. Aflima couldn't see anything beyond it, just the overwhelming light.

"I didn't have the heart to leave. I loved that so many of my proteges and friends were able to make their way across the multiverse and explore realms known and unknown. I was content to perish with my own world."

Aflima walked around to face the Professor. He knelt in front of the elderly man.

"If you are satisfied with your journey, then you can have little to regret. Now, go."

"What about you?" asked Aflima.

With a smirk and a gleam in his eyes, the Professor replied, "You don't need to guess. Thank you for remembering me."

Aflima rose slightly, clasped the Professor's now trembling hands in his own, then turned and walked through the doorway.
[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Re: Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story

Parts Unknown

Tri-blade flinched at seeing Strange Quark in the room.

Rather, a statue of Strange Quark. While Tri-blade had known Strange Quark for quite a while - longer than anybody in BADGE and possibly any of the people he had encountered in the realm of H-R, this version had a slightly different look about him. A more stoic, less quirky version perhaps, but the unknown sculptor had captured the gleam in the eyes in the same deep and mesmerizing fashion. It was a work of art eerily similar to one he had seen long ago in another place.

He turned and beheld a vast number of other statues. Uncountable numbers. Tri-blade walked through rows upon rows of statues that appeared to be freshly constructed with not a hint of wear or blemish upon them. It was a wonder beyond compare and Tri-blade could hardly keep his mouth from falling open at such a sight.

Old feelings of remorse and regret bubbled within as he gazed upon the visages of people he had grown to see as practically family, but lost to him in the wake of the EA event. Some, like Burning Daylight, Krystal Fae and eventually Ability Mage, he had met again in the new realm, and others like the original Power Bottom he had gotten updates on their (safe) whereabouts. Others like Blue Wudan, Psychoman, Supernova, Bombshell, Pink... he could hope they found escape but still dreaded that a worse outcome may have befallen them. Tri-blade stopped walking, and sighed heavily. He choked back tears, tears that may have been suppressed for months upon months during his time back home and recently in the realm of H-R. He leaned against one of the statues, oblivious to its likeness.

"Greetings!" called a voice. Tri-blade sniffed, then looked around. A figure walked into view and Tri-blade gulped.

"Welcome to the Hall of Heroes - past, I might say," continued the voice, "but why do you weep in the presence of such amazing creations, young man?"

Tri-blade stared at the image of his old acquaintance - no, he truly considered him a friend after all he'd been through. "Doctor Toshio, you can't call me young anymore. Look closely, there's more grey than black these days."

"Still young."

"I hear ya," conceded Tri-blade as he shrugged.

Toshio, shorter in appearance than the last time Tri-blade saw him, removed his thick glasses and rubbed them on his all-white buttoned suit. He looked up, smiled, then reaffixed the glasses. His once-thick hair was now a wispy grey but his face did not appear as aged. In fact, Tri-blade could have sworn that Toshio's face looked younger than at the time he first met. Everything about Toshio looked the part of a senior citizen, except that face.

Gesturing at the numerous statues surrounding them, Toshio beamed. "You will notice the Hall of Heroes found time to pay tribute to a few more since your last visit."

"But how?"

"Well to be honest, I do not know. Strange," said Toshio as he rubbed his chin. "I can only imagine some other curator had pieces commissioned in record time." They walked together, not looking at anything in particular but it seemed right for Tri-blade to walk among the other statues, and pay a respect-of-sorts at heroes both known and unknown. "Some of these were of heroes only recently emerged," continued Toshio.

"Emerged in SHC?" asked Tri-blade, confused. "Is SHC still around? I mean, are we in SHC?"

"No, Tri-blade. EA did happen. The realm was vaporized. It all came to pass. Was there anybody there to see it, chronicle it, and survive? Perhaps. But I... would not know."

Tri-blade's eyebrows furrowed in thought. "So this, is some kind of spiritual thing then? Have I been transported to your after-life?"

Toshio shook his head. "Your friends -"

Tri-blade closed his eyes tightly, immediately with concern for Rosa and Aflima.

"- and yourself are still very much alive and whole. Me? Not so much. Am I only a product of my memories, conjured by an unknown entity with ulterior motives? Or am I an angel of hope? All I can, and must, surmise, is that you are wanted for something. I hope that it becomes revealed to you, said Toshio with closed eyes.

At the word "revealed", a white light emerged in the shape of a doorway. The statues slowly disappeared until all that remained were Tri-blade, Toshio and the doorway.

The duo nodded at each other in understanding. Tri-blade began to walk, then turned. "Your granddaughter. Did you...?"

"Yes," said Toshio, his grin large and wide. "Oh, the fun we had! She is smart and clever and can make you laugh on the spot. I was more than grateful to the people who took her in - I suppose they are officially her new parents - for the chance to connect. They left quickly, I suspect it was to follow BrainChef..."

Tri-blade considered mentioning the H-R realm and the possibilities therin, but held his tongue. What could it accomplish?

"... I had brief doubts, but knew that my place was the Hall. Alas, it is no longer here. Perhaps my time is also to fade."

"Your spirit will forever endure, Doctor," said Tri-blade as he put a hand on Toshio's shoulder. "As will your memory and your legacy."

Toshio gave Tri-blade a fist-bump, as his body began to vanish. Tri-blade returned his gaze to the doorway, then walked onwards.
[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Re: Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story

Parts Unknown

The woman's voice carried pain and fear with it. Even though she was too far away to see, Rosa could hear the voice clearly. The language was completely foreign but she knew the sounds in no form could be taken for joy or even rage.

Only pain, and fear. Rosa ran towards the source, calling out to her loudly. She hoped for a response but only sensed more fear. As she got closer, Rosa paused her steps, her instinct to help tempered by her training to be cautious in all situations. If this was a trap of some sort, Rosa knew she'd not be at full capacity to respond alertly after dealing with the spectres of Sin Lords earlier. She took a deep breath and took a step forward.

"Can... I... help?" pleaded Rosa slowly.

Queen Sheika's lieutenant?...The woman stopped screaming. She was kneeling on the ground, hands clasping the sides of her head. Her brown hair flowed in waves and was decorated in places with small blue stones. Her shoulders heaved and Rosa noticed intricate tattoos along her arms and the area of her back not covered by a thin blue garment. Before Rosa could try and decipher the tattoos, the other woman turned.

The woman's eyes were a brilliant hazel-like colour that mesmerized Rosa instantly. To Rosa, this woman was the most striking person she had ever seen, and yet her senses remained on high alert. It seemed critical to try and understand why this person was in her presence after all that she had encountered thus far. She stared at the woman, drew eye contact, then dropped to her knees herself.

The other woman - clearly a warrior, now that Rosa had seen the tattoos now deemed to be tribal markings of a sort - snarled, revealing well-polished white teeth, then shuffled backwards.

"Please," said Rosa both vocally and mentally. "I will not harm you."

Rosa inched forward, hands held outwards, palms facing up.

The other woman stopped moving, and stared at Rosa intensely. Her chest continued to heave but the motion had slowed considerably. The internal noise of combined emotions that Rosa had been fixated on diminished. They looked at each other for several minutes uninterrupted.

Eventually the warrior woman closed her eyes and bowed her head, at the same time reaching at her waist. She slowly pulled out from a pouch on her leg, a jeweled dagger. It was slightly curved and had markings on the hilt similar to the markings on her back. The woman held it in front of her, as if offering it to Rosa.

"Help me to understand," Rosa said as she clasped the woman's hands, folding her fingers over the weapon. Rosa's eyes closed, as did the other woman's. Rosa mentally reached out, hoping to see what the warrior woman was despairing. Her eyes clinched tight.

A forest.

The trees rapidly turning brown and disintegrating.

Other women wearing similar garb, running and screaming, only to be vaporized by a rapidly-approaching whiteness.

A woman's hand reaching out - and clasped briefly - before it too, was no more.

Rosa opened her eyes and held the gaze of the woman, who was now sobbing. Rosa understood.

"All taken from you so quickly," she thought.

The warrior woman nodded.

"You are a warrior. And your tribe is strong and mighty. My godfather tells me all the time that fear is there to be conquered... but your fear is of being abandoned."

Rosa drew herself closer. She could feel the breath of the other woman.

"But, you are not alone. You will never be alone. You are one with your tribe," projected Rosa, at the same time tilting her forehead so that it touched the other woman's. Rosa closed her eyes and emitted thoughts of pride and courage. She did not know if her mind manipulation ability would cause more harm than heal, so held back and kept her own thoughts as simple as possible. Rosa waited, her head resting against the warrior's, hands still clasped around the other's.

Rosa felt a gentle hand across her face for a brief second, but as soon as her eyes opened, the warrior woman began to fade away. The warrior's mouth opened as if to speak, but no sound was heard, no thought grasped. It was soon only Rosa, and a doorway in the distance. Rosa got to her feet, looked at her empty hands, and walked forwards in sombre thought.
[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Re: Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story


Near Jacksonville

Agent Squires spoke into her comms unit, "Everybody. Something is happening to this crystal."

Near Daytona Beach

"Similar situation here," said Jake. "Mage?"

"Analysing now. Luminosity spiked for zero point four seconds before resuming original value. Steady, but material appears to be slightly... pulsing?"

Orlando, Florida, USA

Three brilliant white lights coalesced around a single point and a crystal slightly larger than the ones previously encountered, appeared. Around it appeared Rosa, Aflima and Tri-blade. They looked at each other in amazement.

"Did you have an experience?" asked a wide-eyed Aflima.

Tri-blade nodded while Rosa, head bowed, whispered something inaudible.

Aflima looked around. "Where are we?"

Tri-blade pointed at a structure nearby. It was a wireframe, one large circle topped by two smaller ones. "I'd say we are close to Orlando, guys. Let's inform the others..."

A figure emerged from the crystal, blue in tone and glowing an even brighter shade of the same colour. Its head was eyeless and without a mouth and the body was long and slender. No limbs appeared, but the tail glistened like a set of fish scales in rushing river water. It coiled and encircled the crystal before slithering around the trio.

"Spirit from Japan," smiled Tri-blade.

"A Japan, yes, although not the Japan that you know here," was the response, almost humming but deeper. The spirit moved its head around as if scanning the area, before taking what was as close to an upright stance as could be shown from a serpentine creature, its body hovering about an inch from the ground.

"How?" asked Aflima. "And why?"

The spirit replied, "Many escaped the world you once knew. Others were unable to - caught unaware or uncaring. And still others, they felt bound to it. What you experienced was a journey into brief moments, captured for eternity, of some of the few who remained and faced their fate, whether through free will or otherwise.

"Like the warrior woman," said Rosa softly, her voice crackling a little.

"You saw foe and friend and through your own will and drive, discovered a path to freedom. Let the memories of your time there inspire you in your own continuing journeys," the spirit cooed.

Tri-blade asked, "But exactly how did you come here, and why in the form of these crystals?"

There was silence for a moment, then the spirit shrunk in size, almost to the height of the persons present. It drew itself closer to the trio.

"The connections between realms. We persevere in our own manner. How long, we do not know.

"No thing is forever. However some things do have a habit of enduring for a longer period than one may expect, especially if the one has a mortal life.

The spirit began to fade towards the crystal. "Time,... is fluid. We of a realm no more may very well still have a role to play across dimensions... so remember us... across the realms."

The crystal flashed white, then its glow stopped and it hovered in mid-air, emitting no sound.

Each of their comms units buzzed loudly.

Near Tampa

Analisa was practically shouting. "What are you doing near Orlando?"

"Mama!" cried Rosa.

"We're on our way," continued Analisa, "oh my lord... the crystal here!... it's gone..."

"Here as well," came the voice of Agent Squires on the comms.

Near Daytona Beach

"Same situation here," said Ability Mage. "The crystal appeared to disappear but at the same time looked like it shot off in a westerly direction. The sensors might be able to help with analysis but I don't think they're needed."


Agent Aksoy was currently surrounded by the returned World Corps soldiers. They hadn't yet pulled a weapon out but they clearly were on high alert.

"What is your purpose here?" boomed one.

"Just scanning away, sir. Certainly there is no danger here?"

"BADGE agents aren't supposed to be here. I suggest you come with us for further questioning," came the response, not particularly friendly or inviting in tone.

"Well," said Agent Aksoy as he placed his scanner in his carrier bag, "unless you suspect me of being morphon-powered... which you clearly don't otherwise you would have drawn those anti-morphon guns earlier... you have no power to detain me. Besides, look around... there isn't even anything worth investigating anymore, correct?"

Shrugs from the soldiers. Aksoy held back a chuckle at seeing one of them literally scratch his head in confusion. The one who first spoke eventually threw his hands down in frustration. "Probably not even worth our time. Get out of here."

"Gladly," huffed the BADGE agent as he walked away.

[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]
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Re: Unraveling Consequences: A Realm Defenders' Story

EPILOGUE - 3 Days Later

A mysterious forest, Ardeal

The group of seven silently walked through a dark clearing surrounded by large, thick-barked trees. Dusk had just passed and this was deemed the optimal time by Tri-blade to venture through the forest surrounding the town of Ardeal. Their scanners' functionality, as predicted, was virtually useless as the arcane mist lingered along the ground, but Tri-blade had travelled through this area no fewer than fifty times and knew the path to take almost by heart.

The first stars in the night sky became visible just as Tri-blade motioned to his friends to halt their steps.

"Good evening," came a voice from the shadows.

All turned towards the sound of the voice. The mist had concentrated strongly, first lavender in tone then swirling to a jet black. It formed into wispy clouds then parted to reveal a woman in robes who approached the group. Her hands glowed briefly a shade of purple as they pulled her hood back, revealing a youthful-looking face, with blonde hair in flowing locks streaming from her head. She looked at each person in turn before gazing at Tri-blade and the object in his hand.

"Good evening, Arcana. Will you keep this crystal?"

Arcana stroked the crystal with an ungloved hand, her fingertips tapping the surface rapidly. She smiled as she did this action.

"We pledge to seal this vestige of the old realm you mention in the Cavern of the Elementals where none shall find it. The Legion failed to reveal its location, while the Mythics despite their wisdom and curiosity never chose to seek it," she said to the group.

"And the World Corps, to our knowledge, are not believed to even be aware of Ardeal," added Tri-blade. I beseech you though, do not hesitate to reach out to us - any of us - if Ardeal and its environs are breached by hostile agents of any form.

Arcana took the crystal from Tri-blade, holding it delicately and with clear reverence. "This I pledge."

"Thank you," said Rosa and Aflima in unison as the others nodded their support.

Arcana stepped backwards, and shadows enveloped her. They faded away and only the mist remained.

"Mystery unraveled," said Aflima as he exchanged a fist-bump with Tri-blade. "I wonder though, if this really represents our last interaction with SHC."

Ability Mage said, "I hope not. There is still much yet unknown, and questions still lingering."

Rosa replied, "I think that if we are meant to know more, it will be revealed to us. We just have to be willing to take action and lend a hand. Who knows what connections may still be made?"

Agent Squires put a comforting arm around Rosa, then Analisa kissed her daughter's head. The group followed Tri-blade out of the forest as the sky revealed thousands of twinkling stars on a cloudless night.

[Tri-blade] [ID: 10879]