The cannon fire emanating from the space station was relentless. The blind spot forcibly created to allow the shuttlecraft entry onto the Star Flower offered some protection, but it seemed that anything further would be impossible due to the sheer volume of cannon fire.
Squadrons, report! Is the primary target down?
"Negative Commander Zuko," answered a Fire Nation pilot. "Cannon fire around the primary target is too heavy for our units to get close to. We were able to knock out their scanners in the initial barrage, but we cannot get closer to that area.
What about the remaining enemies?
"Enemy units have switched targets. They're going after the shuttles relentlessly since the assault team boarded. I think they're trying to strand us up here!"
Sir, another attack!
Interrupting the conversation was about five enemy mecha tanks, soaring through space towards the allied squadrons. As predicted, their primary target was the shuttle bay. The allied squadrons quickly began firing, hoping to keep them from coming in close.
Two from above!
"I got 'em!"
The Fire Nation squadron soared towards the targets attempting to zoom in from below, dancing between the cannon fire from the space station itself and the fire from the enemy mecha, zooming in close to take their own shots. One was clipped and flew off while the other chose to zoom in, drawing a wrist mounted energy blade. Before it could engage the units up close, crossfire from the Earth Kingdom squadron attacked the enemy machine, blasting away until it was destroyed.
"They're only pecking at our defenses. I'm expecting a full-scale assault soon."
How about now? Shouted another pilot. Sure enough, eighteen enemy mecha tanks began flying towards the defensive position the united forces had taken up. With enemy fire coming from both the station itself and the enemy squadron, maneuvering space instantly became a premium. A Water Tribe pilot found that out the hard way as it moved too far from the safe zone in an attempt to avoid the enemy mecha, the Star Flower's cannons destroying it. The other mecha tanks were forced to scatter, engaging the enemy unit-to-unit.
"Tell the assault team to hurry up! We'll do our best to reduce the enemy's numbers!"
"How goes the battle Commander Zuko?"
The fair skinned, golden-eyed officer looked at the old Air Nomad master and offered a huff. "I don't like it when people look over my shoulder. Bad enough that every single world leader is looking in on this."
"Those are my men up there. You must understand that I'm worried."
"I didn't like the idea of sending in people that won't kill up to fight, but the Firelord of all people vouched for you. So be grateful."
Rohan offered a smile. "Your mother is wise. Trust me, your men are better off."
Ignoring the comment about his mother, Zuko II instead focused on the initial question. "The assault force has boarded the Star Flower. At this point, it's all up to them."
"Have faith in my men," a voice added, not Rohan's, but that of Emperor Hiresh, who was also looking on at the feed from a conference room in Ba Sing Se. The other world leaders, all watching from their own headquarters, nodded in agreement.
"I do," Zuko answered. "That's why I don't like it when people are looking over my shoulder."
"Well then. 'Avatar', if you will not be my champion, then I will parade you before the world as an example of what happens to those who oppose me!"
With that threat, Han's left hand began moving inhumanly quick, firing off razor winds all the while. He would carve the Avatar to shreds. Not even he could withstand such an assault.
Tong however, was undeterred. He began moving his own left hand forward in concert with Han's strikes, air gusts neutralizing the razor winds as he moved forward. In a few moments, he reached out to grab Han's hand, holding it tightly in his left arm. Han appeared shocked.
Tong began to lift up the arm, preventing it from moving, as he looked on at his opponent. He grimaced, drawing his arm back.
"Because I'm not just fighting for myself!"
A powerful right hand sent Han staggering, even as Tong's grip on his arm stayed firm. "I've hated the people who forced me into hiding for years, and I've seen first-hand just what you've done to others. I won't let you get away with it!"
Rising to his feet, Han swiped at Tong with his free hand, causing him to let go as he flipped backwards, landing on his feet. A claw mark emerged on Tong's chest, along with a slight trickle of blood. Tong winced from the pain, but didn't fall.
"Your self-righteous attitude is infuriating. Do you really think you can defeat me? Your power and skill is nothing compared to Tìdāo Fēng Quán!"
Tong said nothing, but reached for the cut, a trickle of blood flowing on his finger. He licked it slightly, but then spat it out, before re-assuming his fighting stance, bouncing slightly on his feet as if in a rhythm. Han looked on, indignant.
"Boy!" Han yelled, moving towards Tong, his hand constantly shooting razor winds all the while. "No one can survive a blow from me!" Like before, Tong chose to respond with gusts of his own to neutralize the razor winds, until he got close enough to land a hard kick to Han's leg. Wincing, Han leapt back to create an angle, moving in with a powerful slash of his arms. Tong threw his arms up to block, leaving cuts on his arms, but also Han's face vulnerable. Taking advantage of the brief opening, he stepped in, landing a one-two combination to the head that caused the Grand Lotus to stumble back, disoriented.
Undeterred, Han flipped backwards, his feet landing on the wall as he propelled himself forward. His arms were ready to claw Tong's eyes out, his expression confident.
"Just another Air Bender to kill!"
However, his confidence soon vanished as a plume of flame launched towards Han, causing him to stumble and dodge the flame, only singing his uniform as he took a knee. Tong however, wasted no time taking advantage of this distraction; leaping forward and landing a hard knee strike on his grounded opponent.
Sent into the wall by the observation window, Han raised his hands, standing to his feet. The high ceiling of the room would allow him to perform his next move.
"I wasn't expecting that," Han relented. "Then again, you are the Avatar, after all, aren't you? Don't you like to parade that title around to get what you want?"
Not letting his guard down for a moment, Tong answered, "Believe what you want."
"Fine then!" Han shouted. "Then I choose to believe that you're nothing compared to me! That's what I believe, false Avatar!"
Leaping into the air, his arms drawn back in preparation to strike, Han dived-bombed towards Tong, laughing maniacally.
"The ultimate technique of Tìdāo Fēng Quán! Yīng de Zhǎo!"
Tong looked on at the hands drawn back to strike. It was then he realized what was happening.
"He's going to attack the sides of my head. The lunge is a feint."
Tong had seconds to act. Wasting no time, his hand opened, a fireball forming inside of it. He had to be calm and completely accurate for this to work. Had he been asked to do this a month ago, he wasn't sure he could. But now, he knew he could do it.
Rising into the air with a powerful leap, Tong's hand struck Han in the chest before he could strike. From the hand emerged flames that soon encompassed the entirety of Han's body, causing him to scream in agony and fall to the ground, gusts of wind from his Airbending being used to smother the flames as best they could. Tong looked on at his fallen opponent.
A powerful kick from Han argued otherwise, leaving a cut on Tong's cheek as his opponent rose, wearing slight burns over his face and body. His uniform seemed to have taken the brunt of the damage, fallen to dust before him. Now he stood in front of Tong, wearing nothing but burnt pants that appeared like shorts and no shirt, his fairly impressive musculature on display. Most telling of all for Han however, was that his mustache was also burned, all but gone.
"You think this is over?!" Han yelled. "I've come too far to stop now! Nothing will stop the Realignment! I will rule the world! And you, are an outdated annoyance!"
Rubbing his cheek, wiping the blood from it, Tong turned back to Han, raising his hands. "You can't win. Give up now, before it gets worse."
"Don't be so sure, boy. You haven't seen the full scale of my power!"
Blows continued to be exchanged between Kushina and her red haired opponent, the engineer realizing that the mysterious woman's blows were slightly faster and slightly more accurate. It was far from one-sided, but it was becoming increasingly clear that this woman's years of military training gave her a distinct edge, the thought punctuated by a beautiful three strike combination where Kushina blocked the two blows towards her head, only to be knocked to the ground by a push kick on an undefended torso.
"Oh, is that it? Here I thought the daughter of Tae Chun would be better at fighting than this!"
It was obvious to Kushina that something needed to change here soon or she was going to lose. Luckily for her, an edge just happened to appear.
Groggily getting to his feet, the armored man from before looked on at the two women fighting, unsure of what had just happened. His cracked helmet lay at the man's feet as he attempted to stand.
"Where is he?"
It was then Kushina saw her opening, running behind the man and holding him even as her opponent ran forward. Before he could get his bearings on the situation, the blow meant for Kushina struck him in the face, causing the woman to grimace and continue to attack.
"It's not my fault he's in the way!"
Consciousness soon left the armored man as he absorbed the blows of the red-haired woman. Finally, Kushina saw an opening, tossing the man to the side and landing a hard punch to the head, a kick to the legs, and numerous stabbing strikes to the torso of her opponent. The blows sent her staggering backwards.
The woman looked up, only to see Kushina holding the unconscious man, or rather, the trigger on his weapon as the man was leaned up against the wall.
The woman ducked out of the way as Kushina pressed the trigger, annihilating a wall and several feet of floor, leaving the wall to the room and even part of the floor destroyed. The red haired woman was furious.
"ARE YOU INSANE?!" she yelled. "That weapon was designed to fight heavy armor! If you blast open the walls of the Star Flower, we'll both die!"
Kushina nodded as the woman went into the room, looking on as the armor wearing man woke up.
A sharp blow soon sent him back into unconsciousness as Kushina moved into the room, where her opponent was waiting, looking on at what had been revealed. Her curiosity soon turned into complete confusion.
"What is all of this?"
Inside the room were dozens of human sized tubes. But even more alarming was what was in the tubes. The tubes, filled with liquid, all had the bodies of human females inside of them. Bodies with the exact same face.
"Korras is more accurate," the red haired woman answered. "This is the new army, a fact that your friends are probably figuring out for themselves right now."
"The control room is just ahead! Keep pushing forward!"
The remaining members of the assault force had finally found the central control room. From there, theoretically, it would be possible to shut down the Spirit Vine cannon and render the space station harmless.
The barrage of flames and icicles heading towards them however seemed to disagree with that goal, making it very difficult for them to get close to the entrance.
"Great!" Leena muttered as she looked on at the enemy troops having taken up position. "They've set up a defensive blockade!"
"Which one?" Shing asked, looking at the line of women defending the entrance. Or rather, the same woman just copied two dozen times. Each one was wearing one of four shirts, red, green, blue, and white, presumably to identify which element they could bend.
"Korra?!" Tashi yelled.
"Why doesn't she just stay down?" Amit asked. "Where are they all coming from?"
Rather than answer, the blue shirt clad Korras went to work immediately, creating a wall of ice that separated the team from the control room. Leena scoffed, moving forward with two other fire benders.
"Like that's gonna stop us."
Flames began to melt the ice wall, everyone's weapons at the ready for the inevitable assault. As it turned out, they didn't even need to wait for the ice wall to melt, as three metal cables ensnared each fire bender by the neck, dragging them through the melted ice.
Shing saw the woman being ensnared and wasted no time charging forward, leaping towards the metal cable wielding Korra clones. As he did so, he hit the first clone with a powerful kick while turning to the second, grabbing her arm and tossing her into a wall. Skillfully, he began to dodge flame and metal cable strikes as he continued to attack the clones like a maelstrom, while the others looked on.
"What are you waiting for?" Amit yelled. "Shoot them!"
"They keep moving!" a soldier yelled. "We might hit your friend or the Lieutenant Commander!"
Amit sighed, and then turned to the other Air Nomads. "Come on!"
The remaining Air Nomads leapt into action, attacking the Korra clones with a renewed fury that took them completely by surprise. The other soldiers could only look on, it now being outright impossible to attack the clones without shooting their allies. Amit at the least understood this.
"We'll hold them off! Get to the control room!"
As the Korras moved in to attack their new foes, Leena removed the cable from her neck, looking on at the woman who attempted to strangle her. Wearing a green shirt, this Korra wore two metal bending gauntlets akin to the metal bending police of Republic City, the cables extending like whips. She smiled, taking a fighting stance.
"I've wanted a piece of you for a while now. Lucky me there's enough to go around."
"So your plan," Kushina began, "is to make an army of clones."
"A literal Avatar Army, yes," the red haired woman replied. "Once the world's surrendered to us, we're going to have a literal 'Avatar Army' enforce our rule on the planet below."
"And I'm sure," Kushina replied, "that everyone is going to welcome you with open arms after a stunt like that."
"Why do you care?"
"Why do you?" Kushina asked. "I don't even know your name."
"My name?" the woman asked, scoffing at the request. "You really want to know the name of who's going to kill you?"
"Be nice," Kushina answered, inching towards the tubes all the while.
"My name is Ayumu, Miss Kushina. As for why I care, my family has been members of Red Lotus ever since the schism. It's sort of a 'family business."
"Wait, 'Red' Lotus?"
Ayumu shook her head. "I guess that name doesn't mean a lot to people nowadays. I understand though. Point is, I've been with this society my whole life, and I believe in their vision. Which is why it's a shame when people like you get in the way."
"So you're just doing this because your dad told you to," Kushina asked.
"That's enough stalling from you," the woman answered, re-assuming her fighting stance. "You've seen what we've got planned, so there's no way I can let you live."
"Yeah, I'll bet." Looking on her opponent, Kushina reached for one of her pistols, which caused Ayumu to laugh.
"You've given up already? I know you can't beat me in hand-to-hand combat, but really, a pistol?" Gritting her teeth slightly, she asked, "Do you really think you can hit me with that?" Kushina shook her head.
"You, I'm going to beat up with my bare hands. This," she continued, pointing the Shocker right at the tubes, "is for them."
Rising to his feet, Han didn't move forward towards Tong again. Instead, he went to a nearby console by a wall and pressed a button.
"Here's my power! The power to command!"
As the door opened, a metal bending cable wrapped itself around Tong, pulling him towards four women. The four were relentless, beating him and then tying him up while his arms were bound, before holding his head as Tong looked on, bruised heavily.
"More Korra clones?"
"The new army," Han chuckled, kissing the clone dressed in a red shirt. Tong grimaced.
"I am the ruler of the world," Han answered, his formerly furious voice now returning to its calm, somewhat haughty tone now that he appeared to be in control of the situation. "And here, I can make my own army. An elite force loyal to me, which no nation can stand against."
"Wearing the face of the woman who you keep trying to drag through the mud."
"I love Korra!"
"LOVE?!" Tong screamed, looking for an opening all the while. "You know what you love? A DOLL! These aren't Korra! Neither was the first copy I fought! They're dolls, being used to play the role you want, so YOU can have your happily-ever-after! You never cared about the real Korra! The real Korra died because of White Lotus and you were all too happy to trick people!"
"But I do love Korra! We were to be married!" Han shot back. "It's not like you know what love is!"
"No, you wanted to marry a clone devoid of free will like these robots over here," Tong answered. The whole time, he began to focus on the cables holding him. Slowly but surely, so as not to give away his cover, he began to loosen the cables, allowing himself to be freed.
"Silence!" Han shouted, slapping Tong across the face. This was good. He was distracted. Angry. This could be used to his advantage. Absorbing the blow, Tong continued.
"Korra loved Asami Sato."
"I said silence!"
"Korra loved Asami Sato! You know! Future Industries and Tomorrow Technologies? That Asami Sato? They were in love! They didn't get married because of your idiot predecessors! Hell, once they were in the Spirit World, they tied the knot faster than you can say 'wedding cake', Grand Jackass!"
"One more outburst," Han warned, "and I slit your throat! I'm only letting you live so you can see my conquest!"
"Korra didn't love you! Korra didn't love you!" Tong continued over and over in a sing-song voice, taunting the Grand Lotus.
"That's it!" Han shouted, raising his hand to strike Tong down. "You are an ignorant fool!"
"And you," Tong answered, moving his arms, freeing them from the loosened cable, "ARE GIVING ME A HEADACHE!"
Turning to the clone that attempted to bind him, Tong wrapped the cable around the clone that attempted to bind him, strangling her with it.
"How many times do idiots like you make the same mistakes?!" Tong shouted, even as the clone fell over limp. "Chin, Ozai, Kuvira, now you! When are you going to realize that trying to run over everything with a bulldozer won't result in a peaceful or a permanent anything!"
The remaining three clones looked on as the green-shirted Korra copy fell to the ground, unconscious. All three assumed fighting stances alongside Han.
"You can't win, you know that," Han boasted. "It's four-on-one."
"You said it yourself," Tong shot back, assuming his own fighting stance. "I'm the Avatar, and they're not. Deal with it."
"We've regained sensory information!"
"Good! Arm the cannon! Target Republic City! We're going to turn it into a smoldering crater!"
What is it?
"The Star Flower! It's moving! They're preparing to fire their primary weapon!"
What are you waiting for?! Do something!
The cannon fire continued its relentless assault even as the mecha tank legion began to chip away at the enemy's numbers. But the sheer amount of firepower from the cannons would make short work of any assault force if they weren't careful. Reluctantly, the pilot began charging his machine towards the space fortress.
"All units! We need to give the assault force more time! We don't need to disable the cannon itself, just knock out its ranging data and blind them! The targets are near the bottom!"
Moving through the incredible amount of cannon fire, the pilot breathed heavily, his Star Baron dancing through the cannon fire. If only that assault force would just hurry up!