The Balance of Power
Lightning flashes, thunder booms, yet there is no rain to be found. The heavens are ripped asunder, dark clouds torn apart by an incredible force, an ancient and powerful force. The wind blows with the ferocity of a hurricane, the waters of the bay rising and falling as the waves smash against the shores. Through the chaos, three individuals seek to help those caught in the storm by getting them to safety.
"Bolin, how's it going?", Korra shouts to her friend, trying to reach them through the noise brought upon by the freak storm.
"We've got almost everyone to the shelters! Mako's still getting the last few to safety! He should be back shortly!", Bolin shouts in response, a bolt of lightning causing him to jump and embrace Korra tightly in his arms.
"Uh... Bo, you can let go of me now.", Korra chuckles, much to the embarrassment of the blushing earthbender.
"Sorry. I wasn't scared. Honest.", Bolin replies nervously, releasing Korra from his embrace.
"Whatever you say, Bo.", Korra replied with a few chuckles, amused at the antics of her close friend.
It was moments later that the two were joined by Mako. The three friends looked to the darkened skies, watching as the heavens continued to be ripped asunder by incredible forces beyond description. The vast energies continue to increase, lightning azure energies being unleashed in powerful omnidirectional shockwaves that tore the skies apart again and again. Suddenly, the energies ceased and then...
The energies explode and then combine before smashing to the earth with devastating force, its force like that of a small nuclear weapon of mass destruction! The explosion destroys all the buildings that were unfortunate to be within range of its descent, the powerful shockwaves ripping gigantic chunks of strata from the earth. Korra, Mako and Bolin are only spared from being sent soaring through the air by the Avatar creating a protective dome-like barrier around themselves using her earthbending skills.
Once she was certain that the after effects of the earth-shattering explosion had subsided, the female Avatar shatters the protective barrier. Korra, Mako and Bolin slowly, almost hesitantly, approach the site where the sphere of azure energies smashed into the earth. Through the flames that scorch the earth, Korra could see a lone figure standing motionless amidst the destruction and chaos that has been wrought upon Republic City.
She could make out most of his appearance. His flesh was a pale, gray-white in color. He was completely bald, his head completely devoid of hair. His clothing was made up of a pair of royal purple pants, a bright green belt-like cloth that was wrapped around his waist, and a pair of black footwear adorned his feet. He wasn't very old, possibly about her age or perhaps a few years older.
His build was well-toned, yet not too muscular, while his height seemed to be about equal to that of her own. She could not see his face due to the fact that he was partially turned away from her. She took a few steps closer, allowing herself to get a better look at the individual. He looked so familiar. He looked like her previous incarnation. Could it be?
"Aang?", Korra speaks, her voice just above a whisper.
The being turned to face her, revealing a pair of fiery, glowing azure-hued eyes. But what startled her the most was his face. A large sickle-like tattoo marked the left side of his face from his brow all the way down to the bottom of his cheek, while the right side of his face was entirely and horrifically scarred. It appeared that the flesh was severely burned, leaving a bloody and terribly disturbing mask of flesh. Just as startling was the three large glowing fingerprints that marked the severely scarred side of his face. What could've caused this severe scarring, Korra could only wonder for as soon as she spoke to the individual, he immediately responded.
"No, I am not.", The scarred, pale gray-white human answers in a voice as chilling as the freezing waters of the Northern Water Nation.
"Then who are you?", Korra questions, taking a few steps away from him.
"I am Hiro-Kala. And your world... is mine!", Hiro-Kala said menacingly, his eyes glowing with the Old Power.
"Not if we have anything to say about it!", Mako yells, unleashing a stream of flames from his fists.
The barrage does not stop there as Mako continues his assault, launching blast after blast of fire at Hiro-Kala, engulfing him in flames. Stopping partially to catch his breath and cease his attacks, Mako and the others are shocked at the revelation that Hiro-Kala was virtually unscathed. The villainous Oldstrong glared at the trio, clenching his hands tightly into fists as he summoned the Old Power which had the effect of making his eyes glow a brilliant lightning azure-blue.
"Is that all?!", Hiro-Kala snarls in a low, intimidating voice.
"No, I'm just getting warmed up! Come on, Bo, let's take him down!", Mako declares with an order to his sibling.
"I'm with you, bro!", Bolin said in response to his older brother.
Hiro-Kala merely smiles, his entire body becoming hardened by the Old Power that makes his form nigh-invulnerable to any force on the planet. These humans... these elemental benders... they were of no threat to him. They are insects. The only being on this planet that could challenge him, that could stop his conquest of this world, was the Avatar. She was the one that had to be dealt with.
"H-Hey! I... I can't earthbend!", Bolin exclaims, trying with all of his might to summon chunks of earth from the ground for his initial assault.
"Of course not. How can you when I control the entire planet?", Hiro-Kala said, summoning a chunk of strata shaped like a large dagger from the earth and sending it soaring at Bolin like a missile.
Before the chunk of earth could impale Bolin, Mako unleashes lightning from his hands, destroying the dagger missile before it could deliver the killing blow to the earthbender. The firebender unleashes a bolt of lightning at Hiro-Kala, but is horrified when the evil Oldstrong manages to strike the attack with a blast of his Old Power before it could even strike him. Hiro-Kala was beginning to tire of these futile attacks, his eyes glowing with the Old Power, waiting for the right moment to lash out and incinerate these benders to nothing more than ash.
"Do you really think you have any hope of stopping me?", Hiro-Kala inquires mockingly.
"Maybe not them, but you can bet that I'm gonna take you out!", Korra retorts, rushing at the scar-faced villain.
"Finally.", Hiro-Kala whispers, launching himself at the Avatar.
Korra and Hiro-Kala race towards one another, one being propelled by her airbending while the other relying on the Old Power to achieve flight. The two collide in mid-air, their impact shaking the entire city, the powerful blasts of lightning and air sending Hiro-Kala smashing back to the earth like a meteor! With a gesture, Korra summons two massive chunks of strata from the Earth and launches them at Hiro-Kala, who manages to get to his feet. One is blasted to atoms by a burst of Old Power. The second missile, however, slams into Hiro-Kala at full force, smashing him through a dozen buildings that were thankfully devoid of any civilians.
"Impressive. You're able to use earthbending against me, despite my control of the planet itself. Only another Oldstrong should be able to accomplish such a feat.", Hiro-Kala remarked, rising from the rubble as Korra made her approach.
"I don't know what your deal is, Hiro-Kala, and I don't care. This ends now!", Korra stated, glaring at the scar-faced Oldstrong.
"I know of you... and of your ancestors, Avatar Korra. Our pasts are connected like the elements themselves.", Hiro-Kala replies, ignoring her threat as he casually circles her.
"What are you getting at? What do you mean?", Korra asks, confusion evident in her voice.
"The spirits of your past lives... did they not tell you?", Hiro-Kala retorts with a devious smirk.
"Tell me what?!", Korra exclaims, narrowing her eyes, attempting to keep her rage in-check.
"Do you really wish to know?", Hiro-Kala offers, extending his hands to her, his voice so gentle and seemingly sincere.
For what seems like an eternity, Korra could only stare at Hiro-Kala. He didn't appear to be the ruthless creature she first encountered and battled a few moments ago. She could almost sense a tragic aura about him, something that was beyond words or description. He seemed like a tortured, wounded soul that desperately wanted what he had been denied. And his words, his actions, his emotions... they appear to be genuine.
She wanted to trust him, to end this conflict without any loss of life. She's the Avatar, and is it not her responsibility to ensure that life is preserved? If she could end this battle and discover more about her past incarnations, should she not at least take that chance? After a few more moments of contemplating her next actions before making her final decision.
"Yes.", Korra accepts, gently grasping his hands with her own.
"Fool.", Hiro-Kala snarls, his eyes flashing with energy as he tightened his grip on Korra's hands.
Korra's arctic-blue eyes widen, instantly realizing that this whole act was nothing more than a set-up and it was too late for her to react. She could only scream in pain as azure Old Power energies consumed her and Hiro-Kala in a blinding explosion. The power of the explosion is immense, shattering the earth and annihilating the entire coastal area of the city that resides near the harbor. Bolin and Mako only manage to race to a safe distance before the explosive force of the Old Power energies sends them soaring back and crashing against a nearby wall.
Amidst the destruction and devastation, amongst the smoking ruins of the city, Hiro-Kala stands over the beaten body of Avatar Korra. Despite her body being battered and her clothing ripped to shreds from the battle, she was alive and otherwise unharmed from the destructive Old Power energies. This testament alone surprised, enraged and intrigued Hiro-Kala. How could this be?
"You survived. I thought a blast of such power would've destroyed you. Unless... ah, yes. Your ancestors. Always looking out for you. Always protecting you.", Hiro-Kala chuckles sinisterly, looking down at the battered form of the female Avatar who managed to glare up at her antagonist.
"Pity. I hoped for more of a challenge. Then again... you were all too easy to deceive.", Hiro-Kala scoffed, kneeling down and grasping Korra by the throat, temporarily lifting her in the air before bringing her closer to his scarred face.
"I should kill you.", Hiro-Kala whispers sweetly in her ear, sending chills down Korra's spine.
It was then that Korra knew she hated Hiro-Kala. He is a monster, worse than any she'd ever encountered. She doubts that even Amon could have been as sadistic. It couldn't end this way, she couldn't let this monster destroy her people and her entire world!
"No. I can't do that, can I? It would only make you a martyr to your people and your world. But I can't have you getting in my way.", Hiro-Kala said, his grip on her throat tightening ever so slightly.
A twisted smile slowly formed on Hiro-Kala's scarred features, the sight alone making Korra want to spew fire forth into his scarred visage. The sinister Oldstrong had evil intentions on his mind, that much the female Avatar was certain. Summoning the Old Power once again, Hiro-Kala unleashes the energies skyward which tear the skies asunder once again, opening a giant portal in the heavens.
"Then I'll just have to banish you from not only your world... but your very universe!", Hiro-Kala tells her with the same psychotic smirk on his face.
"That won't stop me! I'll come back! And when I do, I'm going to personally tear that ugly, disgusting face of yours off!", Korra snarled, wishing she could enter the Avatar State and kill this monster.
"We shall see. It does not matter. If you do return, I will kill you. If you don't return, then this world will fall. Either way, I intend to conquer this world and make it my own.", Hiro-Kala whispered, more amused than intimidated by her threat.
"This is my world... and you no longer have a place in it. Still, I bid you farewell, Avatar!", Hiro-Kala said, proceeding to launch Korra high into the air with a blunt blast of the Old Power.
Screaming in a combination of rage and sheer helplessness, Korra could only descend further upward until she passed through the dimensional portal. Time and space bend, faster than her mind can comprehend. And the strangest sensation of all, one that she never expected, was feeling the vast energies of the Old Power course through her entire body. For a brief moment, she felt the presence of every creature, every human being, bender and non-bender alike, that resided on her world. And then... it was gone.
The void of space that surrounded her.
The stars of an endless universe that provide her the only source of light.
She couldn't believe it. She underestimated her opponent, taken him for just another out-of-control elemental bender, allowed him to trick her, and in doing so she paid the price. It nearly cost Korra her life. She would never make that same mistake ever again. But now she was utterly helpless, cast out into a universe that was not her own.
She struggled in the gravity free environment, yearning to breathe life-sustaining oxygen, yet there was none to which she could bring renewed life into her lungs. There was nothing she could do but drift in the icy void of space. She knew that all was lost, that her final moments of life were upon her as she began to lose consciousness. It was then that she heard a voice, reaching out to her, almost faintly yet she managed to hear it as it spoke to her in a voice as gentle as a cool breeze.
O, beautiful child.
O, unfortunate child.
Defeated and nearly killed in conflict.
Cast out of your world, of your very universe, and into one that is somehow connected to yours.
You float in the void that is space, the stars surrounding your very being in every direction.
I can sense your heartbeat.
I can feel your life-force fading with each passing second.
You are dying.
Death is near, drawing ever closer.
If you are to remain in the cold depths of space, you will perish.
I cannot allow this to happen.
You are not meant to die here, Avatar Korra.
Your fate, your destiny, has yet to be fulfilled.
I shall save you from your dire fate.
And I will ensure that you are taken in by those who will help you in your quest to save your world.
The body of Avatar Korra continues to drift through space, her life-force being kept alive by an unknown force, a being who took it upon itself to save her very life. The last thing her eyes behold before becoming unconscious was the sight of a large blue, green and white circular sphere. A planet, one much like that of her own. She closes her eyes, succumbing to the darkness, unconsciousness finally claiming her.
Gamma World, New Mexico
Operations Base of Bruce Banner/The Hulk
Sitting atop one of the many peaks, the Hulk watched the stars. He could always get a bit of respite, a moment of peace from gazing at the sparkling heavens. They reminded him of his beloved queen, his deceased wife and the mother of his son Skaar, Caiera the Oldstrong. It's been years since her death, yet he could still remember the sound of her voice and the gentle caress of her hand.
She was a fighter, a warrior not unlike himself. She was perfect in every way. Strong, beautiful, powerful, understanding, loyal, loving and passionate. She loved and accepted him in ways that no other being has or ever will. He loved her, he would always love her. He missed her.
His greatest regret was that he could not save her, that they couldn't have lived their life together in peace until the end of time. What hurt the most was that they couldn't raise their son together, that she could not have been there with him to watch over him. Skaar was all he had left of her memory. He cared about his son, loved him as greatly as any father should. It was because of this paternal love that caused Hulk to become somewhat over-protective of his son.
He remembered when Skaar first arrived on Earth, just after the planet Sakaar was destroyed by Galactus. He was angry, lost, hurt and vengeful. It was after their devastating conflict that threatened to tear Earth apart that Skaar and Hulk set aside their differences. Since then, father and son began to bond, overcoming numerous threats and obstacles that endangered them, the Earth, and even the universe. Father and son fought side by side, protecting each other and the rest of their family and friends from harm.
Skaar had already endured so much in his young life. Not only did he lose his mother, but his entire world... and his fraternal twin brother. Hulk and Banner were united in the task of ensuring that their son would be given the chance to have a better life. No matter what it takes, rage & muscle or intelligence & cunning, they were determined to make sure nothing threatened their son and that he'd get a good life.
The Hulk was disturbed from his deep contemplation, his heightened senses hearing the approach of something falling from the sky. Turning his head, the Jade Giant caught the sight of what appeared to be a falling star. He could see that it was destined to pass through the dome of gamma radiation that encircled several thousand acres and crashes somewhere near the base. The dome of gamma radiation was designed for two purposes: Any non-gamma-powered beings that would attempt to enter would pass out and any technology that entered would become shorted out, thus preventing anyone or anything launching any bombing assaults on the base.
The meteor strikes the earth, creating a crater upon its landing. No sooner than the UFO crashes into the earth, Hulk rises to his feet and leaps off in the direction that the meteor crash-landed. Smashing feet first into the ground, Hulk lands and begins to slowly approach the crater. His towering eight-foot-eight, two thousand pound, muscular emerald-skinned body enters the crater, where his jade irises make a very unexpected discovery.
Within the crater, body battered and clothing torn, was the body of a young woman. She didn't appear to be that old, no older than that of his daughter Lyra who was now attending Hank Pym's Avengers Academy. She was alive, unconscious and hurt, but still breathing. But what should he do now that he discovered her?
He couldn't just leave her. He wasn't too particularly eager to turn her over to SHIELD, either. She didn't appear to be a threat, and she certainly did not look like an alien. He gazed down at the young woman as a low growl escaped his throat, uncertain of the next course of action he should take in regards to the girl. Releasing a heavy sigh, Hulk finally came to a decision. His protective parental instincts take over, causing him to kneel down and scoop up the young woman with his massive arms.
It was decided. She would be taken in to rest and recover amongst his friends and allies within the base. She would be safe and taken care for there. Safe from those who would wish to harm her. Protected by the Strongest team there is!
Resting on her bed within her assigned room at the base, She-Hulk casually began reading the next article of a magazine. She was glad to finally get a chance to relax for a change, especially after having to deal with threats that normally jeopardized the planet and even the universe on a daily basis. It wasn't easy being green, it wasn't easy being a She-Hulk, and it certainly wasn't easy working alongside an entire team of Hulks!
There were times when she missed being a lawyer, working on cases in her human form of Jennifer Walters. Still, she knew what she was doing was for the good of the planet and all who inhabit it. It was one of the main reasons why she joined Bruce in the first place. She'd be able to spend time with her favorite cousin and close friends/family, save the world, explore exotic places that few had ever seen, and have the thrill of kicking the guts out of supervillains. All in all, Jen thought she made the right decision.
Suddenly, the Hulk storms into her room unannounced, carrying a young woman within his massive arms. Jen immediately rises from her bed and rushes over to her cousin, her jade irises focused on the body of the young girl that the Green Goliath held so tenderly. She was beautiful, yet appeared no older than eighteen. Her clothing mostly consisted of various hues of blue and white, with the exception of her footwear and the cloth that was tied around her lower abdomen which resembled something similar to that of Inuit or Eskimo clothing; her hair was dark and tied up in a ponytail with a long tress of hair on each side; and her skin too was like that of the Inuit people from the northern arctic region.
Hulk gently places the young woman on the bed cot that was formerly occupied by Jen, making sure to place her head back on the pillow for support. He stepped back, allowing Jen to get a closer and better look at the unconscious young woman. He knew that Jen had questions running through her mind, probably as many as his own in regards of the sudden appearance of the girl. Who is she? Where did she come from? What happened to her?
"Bruce, where did you find her?", She-Hulk asks, closely examining the young woman who rests in a state of unconsciousness on the bed before turning her attention back to her cousin.
"I found her close to our base. She was unconscious when I found her.", Hulk answered, seemingly unaware of the approach of his other teammates.
"So... not that it's any of my business, but I was kinda wondering... yeah, umm... who's the girl?", A-Bomb inquired as he entered the room.
"I don't know, Rick. Whoever she is, she's not from around here.", Hulk stated, briefly locking eyes with his friend before focusing on the young woman once again.
"Oh! Cool... yeah. Hmm... Twenty bucks says that she's an Eskimo.", A-Bomb teased with a toothy grin, glancing from the young woman to Hulk and She-Hulk.
"Not likely. She fell from the sky like a comet.", Hulk replied nonchalantly.
"Well... how about a cosmic Eskimo?", A-Bomb joked with a smug, toothy grin.
"Heh. Very funny, Mr. Jones.", She-Hulk chuckled, lightly punching her fist against his azure-hued armored hide.
It was at that moment that Skaar slowly approached the form of the young woman that rested on the bed cot, eventually resting himself on the bed beside her in order to get a closer look. His green irises, surrounded by his pitch black sclera that gave him a slightly eerie appearance, focused on the young woman. Reaching out with his left hand, almost hesitantly, Skaar brushed aside a few stray strands of her dark hair from her face before gently caressing the right side of her face with his fingertips. Her skin was smooth as silk, gentle to the touch, much like her long hair. He could feel her heart beating in her chest, he could sense her every movement as she breathed.
"Hey! Check it out, Jen! It looks like someone is taking a liking to our guest.", A-Bomb chuckled as he whispered to his female comrade.
"Skaar's first crush. That's cute.", Jen giggled in amusement, keeping her voice low as to not unintentionally embarrass the teenage Oldstrong.
"Skaar.", Hulk spoke in a gentle voice, drawing his son's attention who turned to glance back at his father.
"Is she going to be okay?", Skaar asked, his voice just short of a whisper.
"Yeah, she'll be okay.", Hulk answered calmly, taking a step forward and gently placing his massive right hand on his shoulder.
"Father... can she stay?", Skaar asks, his voice sounding like a plea, his green irises locking on to the jade eyes of his parent.
"Yes, she'll stay here and recover. When she wakes up, maybe we'll get some answers from her.", Hulk answered calmly.
A smile formed on Skaar's visage, satisfied in knowing that the young woman would be staying with them at the base for the time being. He focused his attention on her again, grasping her right hand within his left in an affectionate gesture. His lonely heart and tortured soul longed for friendship, for companionship, for love from someone other than those of his family. He wished for her to awaken, if only so that she could see him for the first time and finally speak with her and discover her name.
"C'mon, guys. Let's let her get some rest. We'll check up on her in the morning.", She-Hulk said, her voice gentle in tone but also stern as a command.
A-Bomb and She-Hulk were the first to turn and leave the room, but the Hulk stopped at the door to wait for his son who continued to gaze down at the mysterious sleeping beauty. Skaar leans his head down, his long dark hair falling all around himself and the beautiful young woman. He stared at her, resting his forehead against her own before he proceeded to gently caress her left cheek with his right hand before rising to his feet and rushing to the door where his father waited. Alone within the room, Korra continues to rest, her mind at ease for the time being. It was then that the same gentle, ghostly voice whispered to her as she slept.
O, beautiful child.
O, lost child.
When you awaken, embrace those who have taken you in.
Embrace the beloved son of the Green King.
Until then, may you rest and be allowed to dream again.
And so it begins...
Hiro-Kala is a threat that Korra's world has never seen before, a threat greater than any war of nations, one that'll threaten to consume the planet and rip it asunder. He's a threat to their world, as well as the spirit world. And you'll soon see why once his intentions are made clear.
The ancient past that connects one of Korra's earliest predecessors/incarnations with the race known of the Shadow People will also be explored, and what is discovered is quite incredible. All this and more surprises and shocking events will unfold as this epic story continues. Don't miss out!