Hopefully I'm over my writers block.

By The Dawn's Early Light

"Spirits preserve us!" Kai looked down at the devastation that had been rout in the bandit camp and felt a chill run down his spine.

The plan had gone almost like clockwork, at least to begin with; the skilled earth-benders within the assault force had masked their approach until they were in position, and then they'd attacked from all sides at once. One of the bandit airships had apparently either not long arrived, or had been ready to depart, as it had started to take off within moments of the alarm sounding. Korra had barked an order for Kai and his fellow Air Nomad Rangers to take the ship intact, no doubt fearful that it could be holding prisoners, and he had missed the rest of the battle. The fight to take the transport had been far from easy. Gone were the days when hardly anyone knew how to fight an air-bender; with the resurgence in the Air Nation and their more proactive stance in peacekeeping operations, there had likewise been a resurgence in the study of ways to combat them. It had been slow at first, but over the years more and more criminals had started to learn long forgotten forms.

Eventually taking control of the airship and securing the crew, Kai had found that its cargo bay was full of stolen goods, complete with a list of merchants and middlemen willing to fence it for the bandits. He immediately sent one of his Rangers back to the United Forces base-camp with the information, then ordered the ship be turned around and flown back to the bandit encampment.

"Korra." Kai whispered to no one in particular, "I had to be Korra..."

The tall radio tower had been twisted into a neat bow, while the airship hangers were an inferno, indicating that the hydrogen tanks had been damaged. From his vantage point, he could see teams of fire-benders working to contain the flames while water and earth-benders worked to bring water from a nearby stream close enough to be used to battle the fire. The damage to the rest of the camp was almost a strait line from where Kai had last seen Korra to the stockade that they had assumed was holding any hostages the bandits had taken. Kai knew the signs of his surrogate older sister entering the Avatar State, at it was clear from what he could see that she had taken the opportunity to vent more than a little of her frustration on the bandits.

"The far end of the runway looks clear." Prix, the only member of his team not to be an actual Air Ranger, reported from the helm, "I should be able to set her down there."

"Okay." Kai nodded, making a mental note to learn the woman's story one way or another, "Just be careful; there's a lot of debris down there."

"This isn't my first rodeo: I've landed ships in far worst condition than this in far worst situations." Prix laughed in a way that was strangely familiar, "Growing up on whatever United Forces base my mother was assigned to at the time, I learned a few things, even before they finally gave in and let me officially join up."

Kai looked at her for a moment, and tried to recall everything he knew about her: she'd arrived on Air Temple Island one day with a letter of introduction from Bumi, who'd been off doing whatever it was he did when on his semi-regular missions for the United Forces. Evidently she'd kept her newly awoken air-bending hidden from her superiors, out of fear that they'd force her to leave the military to join the Air Nation. It wasn't until she she ran into 'Uncle Bumi' that the true had come out, and she had reluctantly agreed to travel to Republic City for Air Ranger training, on the understanding that she'd be allowed to return to her old unit afterwards. Tenzin had been unhappy, but short of kidnapping the young woman and forcing he to become an Air Nomad, there wasn't much he could really do about it, and he had eventually relented. Whatever her back-story, Prix had proven to be a quick learner, if a little impatient with the more spiritual side of her training. Out of desperation, Tenzin had assigned her to Kai, hoping that he'd find a way to get through to her. Evidently he had, because the bandit hunt was her final test before passing Air Ranger training and returning to the United Forces.

His life was certainly going to be quieter without her around, but with a baby on the way, that was probably a good thing.

"Sir, we've just intercepted a radio message from Republic City." One of the other Rangers derailed his train of thought, "It's for Avatar Korra, urgent."

"I'll take it to her." Kai accepted the piece of paper, double checking that his wing-suit was intact and ready to go, "Prix...just bring the ship down safely and in one piece, okay?"

Lin paced back and forth, hands clasped behind her back, the grim expression on her face more than enough to cower the hospital staff into keeping out of her way. It had been hours since Asami had collapsed and a hastily called ambulance had rushed her back to the hospital. Kya had vanished into the examination room along with the same doctor that had treated Asami after the accident, and there was a near constant coming and going of orderlies, nurses and junior doctors, all too busy to update the chief of police as to what was going on. Despite her frustration, she couldn't help but feel sorry for Senna and Hiroshi, who were still back at the house, looking after their grandchildren while the Blue Lotus scrambled to find Mako. And the less said about whoever had to deliver the news to Korra, the better.

Uttering curses under her breath, Lin mentally kicked herself; she'd never wanted children, having never felt the maternal instinct within herself. She had her career, and it had taken a lot of time and effort to prove that she was worthy of her rank by her own merits, and not just because of who her mother was. She'd never wanted to feel a life growing inside herself, to nurture it and see it grow. That had always been Tenzin's dream, and was one of the main reasons why they relationship had ended as badly, and publicly, as it had. She had spent her entire life building a seemingly impregnable wall around herself, cutting herself off from all but strictly personal attachments. Yes, there had been times when she'd felt certain...physical needs, but she'd always taken great care to make sure that the short-lived dalliances she'd taken part in had left her with nothing more than fond memories and relief. Suyin had taken care of continuing the Beifong dynasty, so there hadn't been any pressure there.

Some women just weren't born to be mothers, and Lin was one of them.

So how the hell was it that she'd found herself collecting young people who were as close to her as any child she could ever have? She hadn't set out to gain a surrogate family, certain;y not consciously, but it had happened none the less. Korra had been first, the impulsive young Avatar simply drew people towards her like a whirlpool. Next had been Mako, even if she had tried to explain that way as a good commander keeping an eye on a hopeful young recruit. He'd come as a package deal with Bolin, and there was something about her nieces bumbling husband that was simply impossible to dislike. Asami had taken longer, but her assistance during the Equalist uprising and all the chaos that had followed had been immeasurable to the city. Opal was at family by blood, and much like Bolin, there was something about her that you just couldn't help but like. Kuvira had been the one Lin saw the most of her self it, at least when she had first arrived in Republic City. The young metal bender had been all about her work, with little time for anything else. But somehow she two had been drawn into the same chaotic circle, but seemed to have found something that had been missing from her life with Mako and San.

And so here she was, caring about another human being, about a whole gaggle of people that she would never have chosen to become so close to. And that closeness brought with it both the shared joys, and the shared sorrows. Lin had spent so long cutting hers;f off emotionally from those around her, she wasn't sure how she'd react if anything bad happened to any of them, and that scared her far more than any of the threats she had faced down in her years of public service.

Kya appeared, looking ragged and more than a little confused, muttering something about nothing making any sense. She looked up and saw the look of anguish on Lin's face and managed a faint smile, before enveloping her old friend in a hug. Lin was shocked at first, her body ridged and unsure how to react to the unexpected display of emotion on the part of her oldest and dearest friend. Many people had commented at the strangeness of their friendship, given how different their personalities had been, but the two had somehow remained close, even when Lin broke up with Tenzin and Kya disappeared off on her travels around the world. Despite it all, there had always been a connection there, and Lin found herself relaxing enough to return the hug, taking solace in the simple closeness and warmth of another human being.

Maybe it was time for a few walls to come down after all?

Kai coughed, waving the cloud of dust out from his face, his ears still ringing like he'd been at ground zero for a thunderclap. Looking around, he could see that he wasn't the only one recovering from...whatever it was that had happened. The last thing he could remember was handing Korra the message that had come over the wireless, and then...her eyes had glowed and the whole world was suddenly upside down and hitting him in the face.

He'd spent enough time around Korra to recognise the Avatar State when he saw it, but he had never seen her make the transition so quickly. He thought to ask her, but she was nowhere to be seen. A trail of destruction leading off into the distance, where he could just about make out a small dot the seemed to be in the process of disappearing over the horizon in the general direction of Republic City indicated that the Avatar had left the mission somewhat ahead of scheduled, and it quickly struck the young Air Ranger that he was most likely going to be the one tasked with looking after Dusa.

He looked down and was surprised to discover that he was holding the message for Korra, and even realising that it was a breach of her personal privacy, he quickly read it.


Oh, well, that explained a lot.

To Be Continued...