Warning: This story takes place fourteen years after Sozin's Comet. It's rated mature for its dark themes, graphic violence and sexual content, including smut and elements of dub-con and one questionable scene of non-con. Read at your own discretion.

The 'fifth column' is a group of people who clandestinely undermine a larger group, such as a nation, from within.

KATARA WATCHED THE masked figure silently twirl the bo-shuriken in his hand, nimbly rolling the blade along his surprisingly long, sturdy and broad-knuckled fingers. Hypnotised by the blur of movement, she couldn't bring herself to look away.

Her wrists ached in their bonds. When she pulled on them, the rope cut ever so slightly into her flesh, just enough to burst the capillaries beneath the surface of the skin. There would be marks left behind—marks that would last long after they untied her and threw her back into her cell. But the bruises would have to be tended to later, or not at all. It all depended on what this new torturer had in store for her.

"You and me," she growled, "we'll settle up after this."

It was times like these she wished she were in her cage straining against the iron shackles. At least she'd look as intimidating as she was trying to sound.

The masked man laughed silently at her threat, studying her with shrouded eyes before pushing himself off the wall. In one swift motion he deftly slipped the shuriken back up his sleeve, the silver blade disappearing into the thin fold of fabric.

She flinched at his movements. She had never seen this stranger before now, but she instinctively knew by his dress and demeanour that he was no common guard. He had arrived at the prison earlier that morning, dressed in black from head to toe, save a grotesque silver skull mask that covered half his face.

To say that he was different from the others who had been sent to interrogate her was an understatement. While her tormentors had been brash and cruel, this man was quiet and observing and frightfully intimidating in his own way. In the few short minutes she had spent with him in the interrogation cell—with him staring at her and fingering the blades of his weapons—his silence and posture had spoken volumes more than any beating had.

This masked stranger was vastly more terrifying than any other man she had encountered in this hell-hole of a prison. And although he seemed mute, she held no delusions about who he was and why he was there. She had heard the guards whispering his name: Kage, the Fifth Column's greatest assassin. He had been sent there to break her or kill her, or maybe it was both.

The Fifth Column wanted their answers—answers that they had been trying to torture out of her for the past three weeks. The whereabouts of Ozai's prison. Fire Lord Zuko's hidden bunker. The identity of the metalbending master who had designed the two former infrastructures. And, finally, the location of Avatar Aang.

Katara knew these answers, but no matter how hard they beat her, no matter how much they starved her or threatened her, she would not break. Her friends would come for her, and if they couldn't find her in time, then she would die protecting their secrets.

It was her way.

The assassin took a silent step forward and she instinctively recoiled, expecting the worst. Instead he pivoted and strolled over to the door, knocking on it twice to signal to the guard that he was finished.

It was their first meeting and he hadn't even lifted a finger against her. She was sure that it was a scare tactic or a way of lulling her into a false sense of security. Perhaps it was both. Regardless, she was far too tired to worry about the what-ifs or the tomorrows or the day-afters.

Tonight she would be put in the cage and given water and maybe—just maybe—some food. There she could practise bloodbending on the rats again, and that horrendous act alone would bring her more peace and pleasure than she would ever like to admit.