Author's Notes: Not sure if this is worth the wait. Sorry this took so long, but I got caught up in other projects. Now I have a fresh source of inspiration that will hopefully last until I finish this fic.
Hiroshi had the most boring voice. Aita stood off to the side, listening to him. She was planning to see Gir soon. She hadn't made time for the torturer yet. Her body might still be healing, but there was so much to do. She watched from the side as Hiroshi spoke to the assembled citizens, there were a couple of spies in the audience looking for any rebels, but they were all spread so thin at the moment that it was doubtful any rebels would be found. There were still pockets of resistance in the city, and the avatar was still at large, probably leading the largest of the groups. Amon might want Korra free, but it also meant that there were more chances for unplanned attacks and other complications.
Aita leaned against the stage, technically she was supposed to be making sure Hiroshi was safe and to protect him, but she was pretty sure Lee had told her to watch the old inventor to give her a break and because Lee was still shell-shocked after finding out who Aita really was.
The interrogation/debriefing had taken a long time. Aita felt worn down, but she was grateful that Amon hadn't dragged her to Gir to get interrogated, she doubted she would have kept her mind in the material world. Instead she was interrogated by one of Rat's or Lee's men, while Amon, Luco, and Lee came in and out of the room to listen at random. They had talked openly in front of her about the strategy for taking out the fleet that was coming. The mines and the planes that would take them out.
Aita thought that either showed what faith they had in her and their belief she could be cured or that she wasn't making it out of the building alive. Aita had finally, what felt like days later, been allowed to rest and see her rooted charges. No one but the people allowed in the room appeared to know her identity, and the only person who cared was Lee. Mostly because he was pissed she had been having him on all this time.
When Aita had left the room, she had gone to see Amon, but he was just taking the benders power. She had joined him for a while, Luco coming to stand next to her as Lee stood by Amon. But Luco had obviously been advised to watch her for signs of fatigue because as soon as her headaches started to get bad, he had led her away and given her tea.
Not too much of a problem, Amon kept saying they were taking away impurities. While Aita agreed with the sentiment, Aita felt he was going about it wrong. The language felt wrong. But, Amon had taken the upper hand and the only benders left were either in captivity or in hiding. So perhaps he was using the correct terminology for his audience.
Now Aita waited for the navy to arrive.
"Finally," Aita sighed as the boring speech petered out. The only reason Hiroshi was speaking was because Amon was determined to go on for as long as he could taking every bender's power.
Aita slipped away with the cheers, noticing other masked equalists doing so also, getting into position to protect Hiroshi from any rebel benders taking him out. Though the purpose of this speech was twofold, one to inspiring those citizens loyal to Amon and also to draw out benders and capture them for Amon.
Now it was time for Spirit to face Gir. Aita shivered, Gir was so creepy.
The man's base of operations was deep in the hub of the town, where all the shops were held and did business. Aita hoped to see Tarlock before she saw Gir. She couldn't explain, which was part of the reason Amon had turned her down. He wanted to keep his brother as secret as possible. Still, it seemed important to Aita that she see him before she saw Gir. It was an itch, something Aita felt the Spirit World was trying to warn her about. Aita had briefly wondered about telling Amon, but had decided against it. Getting information from the Spirit World was almost as bad as bending. It was better not to shove it in his face. Better to pretend she didn't pay attention to anything that happened in the Spirit World, despite the fact that even with her mind clear, the Spirit World was constantly influencing and speaking to her.
Gir's base of operations was under a bakery, which when an equalist learned this fact, caused one of two reactions. Either they were too grossed out to ever eat in the vicinity again, or the bakery became their favorite place to go because apparently the thought that maybe Gir was crazy enough to cook human flesh into pastries. Aita tended to avoid the place unless she was inviting someone to come eat with her. This had been one of her favorite spots to needle her brother into taking Mako and Bolin into. It helped that they served great coffee as the doubled as a cafe.
The winding stairs were very intimidating, in most instances. Even Equalists were nervous when they walked down the loose metal stairs. They went down down down as the metal railings shook. The atmosphere was wet and depressing, mold grew everywhere and the light shown sparsely around the long steps down to the torture area. Aita had brought a couple of prisoners down to Gir. She had always wanted to ask what they thought of the smell change. At first, blindfolded and scared or defiant, they were lead through a space that smelled like baking bread and sweet rolls, then as they went further down the smell slowly dissipated and was then slowly replaced with the smell of blood, urine, and feces. Aita always wanted to know if the effect was creepy or comical.
However, Aita never had a chance to ask. And now, when alone, she tended to treat it like a ride. She slid down the banister with a yip and a holler, a practice Gir encouraged her to do. Apparently someone cheering all the way down the stairs, dressed like the girl Amon and acting like a nut as she slid down the banister made the prisoners very nervous.
Gir was securing chains on the arms of a thin young man. He was in a molding prisoner outfit, with various open wounds, and though the cuts were small, they had begun to fester in the horrible dirty and wet environment. Aita was sure that there was at least one solid layer of blood across the floor.
"Took you long enough," growled Gir, not turning around. Not that there was any doubt who she was. "I got him all setup for you."
"Why am I here?" asked Aita, as she looked at the young man. He looked familiar, but Aita was sure that she had never seen anyone with such a tangled aura.
"He was your idea," said Gir, turning to glare at Aita. Aita folded her arms and looked back... oh. "I insisted it be you who listen to him. Amon would probably kill the boy outright if he heard this, but I find that sometimes the most potent information comes from the mouth of those driven insane by my methods."
"You weren't able to convert him?" asked Aita. Still, Aita wasn't surprised. Gir was more known for his ability to extract information and break benders then to actually convert them.
"Well, boy, tell her about your loyalty," said Gir, nudging Tahno in the shoulder with the tip of his boot. Aita didn't see any of the boy from what once was. She didn't see the cockiness in him from before or the desperation from when he tried to kill himself.
At first he didn't seem to respond to Gir's prod and then, his head snapped up and he met Aita's gaze without flinching.
"Spirit," he whispered and then a manic grin spread across his face and his arms strained against the manacles on his wrists. They were already rubbed raw and trickling blood. "I swear, I've changed. Bending is evil, and I want to help get rid of it. Give me back my bending and I swear that I will only use it to rid the world of bending."
Aita stepped toward him, careful to keep out of his reach.
"How do you think that giving back your water bending will show your support?" asked Aita. Instead of answering, Tahno just smiled wider and started nodding.
"Exactly. I'm perfect as a water bender right? I promise. I will help. I just want to help," said Tahno. Aita backed up and looked over at Gir.
"As I said, he flipped his lid," said Gir. Aita lifted an eyebrow and then looked back at Tahno. Sweat dripped down the former waterbender's forehead. "The interesting part is that he's completely himself. He's not the least bit interested in actually joining Amon's cause, he's just saying all this because he thinks that what we want to hear."
Aita nodded. Tahno was slowly forgetting his smile as he looked between the strange girl who had captured him and the person who had been doing... something for the last month or so. Aita was pretty sure it had been that long. It felt like it had been years since that faithful night at the probending arena.
"Well, miss?" asked Gir. Aita shrugged.
"I have no idea. I'll meditate on it later," said Aita. "I guess you weren't able to reform him?"
"No, unfortunately, but if we take this city I've know a chit that'll join us once the city officially taken. Should be after the navy fails," said Gir. "She's must better at this whole subversion thing. I just wheedle out information. Still, if there's anyone who can answer your questions it's Spirit."
"I'll try," said Aita looking down at Tahno. "I suppose you should keep him until your lady friend can join us."
"No, please, you'll see I'll be..." Aita turned on her back on Tahno and started walking back toward the stairs. What a waste of time.
"Spirit, please reflect on what Tahno has said. I've been trained to hear things like these in prisoners. He might be a bit cracked, but there's something in what he's saying. I know he is trying to say something," said Gir, looking at the pathetic used to be water bender.
"Well, clean his wounds," said Aita with a sigh. "If I think I have something, I'll tell you."
Aita headed back up the steps, she briefly looked behind her. The spirits around Tahno twisted still. And Aita sighed. She walked back over to where Gir was starting to bundle Tahno back up. Aita reached over and drew one of the creatures to her. For a moment she almost slipped, almost let her mind fall into the Spirit World before she pulled herself back.
The torturer gave her an odd look, but Aita turned her back on him without explanation. If there was one agreement among those who knew Aita's secret, it was not to tell anyone until they had a cure.
By the time Aita was back in their current residence, someone had somehow convinced Amon to stop removing bending. Well, after a day of Aita wandering about the city trying to sniff out the avatar or other rebels, even Spirit had returned around midnight. Lee took them to their room where Luco was there along with Bethai. Aita took her food and sat on the desk, her legs swinging as Bethai harassed Amon. Luco reached over and snatched the mask from Aita's head. Aita allowed him and then looked over at Bethai. The old woman pretended she didn't notice and left without even commenting on it.
Actually no one did, not even Amon. Aita decided to let it go. Bethai made sense as someone who needed to know. If Aita's identity was revealed before they wanted it to, then Bethai would have to have come up with something that didn't utterly ruin Amon. Though Spirit was someone for the general masses. Spirit was someone who was there for the hardcore nonbenders who choose to give their lives to the cause.
Spirit was the assassin, the thief, and generally did things that most normal citizens would have problems dealing with. It was one thing to hear something, especially when Amon was beginning his overthrow. It was another to meet the person who did the more sordid deeds Amon needed done. Better to pretend that Amon's entire organization was like Amon, strong, misunderstood, and moral.
Aita ended up curling in bed, Amon joining her later. It took Aita along time to fall asleep. Eventually she just secured her mask and tried to clear her mind. She might be used to not getting as much sleep as a normal human, but she did need sleep. The spirit Aita had taken from Tahno hadn't moved it since she had taken it, so Aita had nothing to worry about there. She would meditate on it when she had time.
When Aita woke up it was to the sensation of something resting on her neck. Aita's eyes slowly fluttered open, as the other hand traced along her shoulders and across her collar bones.
"Good morning," said Aita sleepy, reaching up to run a hand along his mask. She smiled sleepily before she leaned forward intent on a snuggle or a kiss. Amon just sighed and rolled out of bed. Aita sighed and shook her head. Amon hadn't been distant lately, but it was hard to tell it that was because he didn't trust her now that he knew who she was, or because there was so much to do now that they had taken control of the city.
"You should rest today Spirit. There's not much to do today," said Amon. Aita chuckled.
"No, just the navy coming," Aita teased. Amon gave her a look and Aita rolled her eyes. "I know. I don't know how to fly those planes and my arm is broken anyway."
Aita couldn't imagine what Amon would think of her sliding down the stairs the other night.
"Amon, are you really alright?" asked Aita, hesitantly when he turned to leave. Amon hesitated before looking back at her. His expression looked a little confused behind his mask. "I mean, that I'm rooted. I taught you how to take bending, and it wasn't from the most reputable source."
"How do you mean it wasn't reputable?" asked Amon, his voice hard. Aita found herself withdrawing inward.
"It was from the spirit world. I mean, speaking to spirits isn't exactly too far a step in people's mind from bending," said Aita. Then laughed.
"I have nothing against the spirits," said Amon carefully, his voice becoming gentler. "Why else would I name my favorite girl after them? But why are you so resistant to it? This ability you have, it isn't at all like bending, the more I hear about it. You aren't connected to your element, you're connected to the spirit world. What better way to prove that the spirits support us? To our cause we have the girl who is even more connected and a part of the spirit world than the avatar. Why are you so reluctant to embrace that part of yourself. Unless you're connected to water. I never did ask you how you got out of the spirit world."
"Not by connecting to my element," said Aita with a laugh. "I couldn't waterbend any better than your normal rooted idiot. I got lucky. My mind was lost in the spirit world, instead of in the element my bending was supposed to be. Since this world and the spirit world are parallels of each other, all I have to do is enter the world as a spirit might. I used a tree for the most part, and then I just sort of possessed my own body. To stay in this world takes constant concentration."
"So you hate being connected to the spirit world..."
"Because I can't be with the people who matter. I have to be on my toes, and I'm constantly using my connection without thinking," said Aita. "I hate it because I feel like a hypocrite and I can't even save myself because my technique doesn't work on people like me."
"What if, instead of finding a way to take bending, you freed your own?" asked Amon. Aita found herself taking steps away from him, shaking her head.
"That would be worse," she said. Amon looked at her and seemed to be raising an eyebrow and she took a deep breath in. "I mean it when I say bending is evil and it corrupts. It's not just because I've been abused. I can see into people's past, and while there might have been some decent benders, for the most part, even in small ways, they abuse and suppress those without bending."
"But you would be the one with bending," Amon pointed out.
"Yeah, people can say what they want about past lives not being you. But all past lives have a certain, taste to them. A pattern, a something that makes a soul distinct. I can see them," said Aita she sighed and looked up at Amon. "Not even you are free of it, but as for myself. If for some reason I was granted my waterbending back. I would go into the spirit world and never return not even for you."
"And if you lost the ability to go to the spirit world?" asked Amon. Aita smiled shakily.
"Then I would slit my own throat," Aita said plainly. Amon quickly covered the ground to them. Aita felt herself tense as Amon took her by her elbows and then allowed herself a little smile as Amon removed her mask. "It's not because I'm noble Amon. It's because I know how easily I can be corrupted."
"And how do you know that's not what I love about you?" said Amon. His face just centimeters from her own. Aita smiled, giggled and helped remove Amon's mask.
They spent the time in bed and then Amon went off to oversee the attack. Aita rolled around the spirit around her arm before she fell back asleep. It was so hard these days to tell if the people she had known and built a relationship she had now. Aita understood it, she just didn't like it. It was ironic in some ways. When Aita had been just Spirit, she had easily blended in. Oddly enough her position as Amon's sidekick had been her saving grace. While it caused some confusion and questions, overall it did hide her identity. The thing was, The revolution was full of people that hid their identities, if just behind handkerchiefs and goggles.
Aita sighed as the spirit pulled at her arm. First she needed to go and see the other rooted kids. It was amazing how many parents really clung onto Amon's promises once he said he could find a way to unroot them. Even ones she had known to support the benders turn to supporting Amon just for the children. It was very heartening. Some people had come from other cities, sneaking in to help find that cure.
When she finally returned she found that Amon had come in the middle of the day and was spending the night playing devising tactics to find the Admiral Iroh. Apparently his body hadn't been found in the wreckage. Since the avatar had showed up in the fight it was believed that she had something to do with his disappearance.
Well, now that was Amon was busy, and Aita really didn't want to sleep by herself, she instead concentrated on the spirit. The thing had gotten impatient with her. With Tahno it had the perfect sort of breaking mind to leech on and feed his mind. It probably also helped him, taking his mind away from the pain. Though it was probably what drove him over the edge too. Not that Gir didn't have his own hand in it, but Tahno was speaking, if not with complete sense. Most of Gir's subjects turned really passive or really aggressive and made little sense even to themselves.
Aita slowed her breathing and concentrated on getting her body comfortable and let her mind wander without letting it completely go. Her mind wandered and Aita let go of the spirit. The spirit seemed surprised about it, freezing and seeming to look over at her. Then it twisted around her. Aita sent an idea, she was interested in knowing where Tahno had gotten the idea that he could convince Spirit to give him his bending back so he could join them.
The spirit seemed to encase her head and then it was dragging her away. There was a moment where the pull made her realize that she would have to leave her body and the material world. It was so easy to choose, she let it go fast.
The spirit continued to pull Aita away, and Aita felt her flying through the sky and into the north pole. There it dragged her into some pool and Aita felt herself twisting and pulling. The tide, she could feel the tide.
What was going on? Had Aita miscalculated. There was a chance that the spirit hadn't brought her to Tahno's base of madness. There was a chance that Tahno had just made it up himself. In that case the spirit could have taken Aita to her madness. Was it possible that Aita had allowed herself to be pulled into the pull of the water afterall and she was to be a true rooted? What would that mean to Amon? Would there be any difference?
Aita found herself freaking out, and then pushed the feeling away. No, she wouldn't let the tide take her. She hadn't before, and she wouldn't now. She would find herself out of the this water. She would drag herself out of this water. Who knew, maybe it would answer how to cure those that were rooted.
Aita fought against the tide, but it pulled ruthlessly against her. No matter how Aita fought, the tide continued to pull at her, no matter how hard she fought, she continued to be pulled with the tide. Aita sighed and turned away.
The tide tugged and pulled, and something called to. It wasn't just this pool of twisting water. Aita broke free, the cool water sank into her skin and Aita realized there was more than the twisting vortex and in moments Aita had broken free of the pulling tide and into calmer water. There she was sure she could find away to free herself, or at least be able to think, with the raging water constantly pulling at her she had no room to think.
When she broke into the calmer water, it washed over her and helped calm her frazzled nerves. The rocking motion of the cool, calm water instantly soothed Aita's mind. She found herself taking a deep breath in and then letting it roll through her body. Another one in. It was like meditation. It was soothing, like when she meditated, a complete focus just on experiencing her breath and letting her mind focus and refine itself to a single task.
It took Aita too long to figure out that she had stopped thinking, that somehow in this calm she had let herself almost become a part of the water and the flow. Aita closed her eyes, tried to feel herself as a separate being from the water and not just another part of it. But soon her breathes were sending her toes and fingers across distant shores and Aita found herself trying to pull herself completely into the whirl pool. Fear ripped through her as she spun around and around. If she actually found herself calming down then would that mean she was coming into herself or spreading out to encompass the world.
No, she could control this. She was Aita. Maybe she was rooted, but she was not rooted to the water. Water was a tool to be used. And if anything she learned from the Spirit World, it was how to take control of her own mind. And while she might not have any ability to wield the creatures and energy of the Spirit beyond the limitation of a normal spirit, she was supposed to be a water bender.
Aita took a deep breath in through her nose, closing her eyes and drawing in all her will as the water spun her faster and faster down and then she grabbed that power, that control, firmly, and resolutely. The water was not her master, she was its master. She touched her fingers to her head then drew her hand away, telling the water to gather at the tips of her fingers even as the water demanded she give in and join its course. She fought, and then like a click in her mind she found the will.
Finally Aita's eyes snapped open and she found herself standing as if ready to fight in her and Amon's room where the morning sunlight trickled in through the boarded up window. Aita felt her breath coming faster and beads of sweat starting to form on her brow, and then forced herself to relax, her muscles loosening and a sickening crash of water falling to the floor.
Aita stared at it for a moment, her mind seemed oddly blank. She found herself reaching back and found herself falling into a classic stance to begin water bending. Aita didn't watch what she was doing before she threw her hands forward. The water that had splashed onto the ground before freezing. Aita felt her throat close and she stumbled backward, her empty mind picking up thoughts rapidly until she stopped the blade she had brought to her throat.
The thing about looking into future meant Aita could quickly translate information given to her. The feeling she had when she used the bending was something she had felt before. She was such an idiot. She hadn't tricked the avatar into using water bending to get the ice off her hand, it had been her using bending. The trick she had used to pull her mind from the water wasn't just a rejection, it was using the water itself in order to achieve the goal. Aita still wasn't entirely sure how it worked, but she was able to figure out that waterbending was what gave her the ability to take bending.
Aita stopped a hysterical laugh that tried to escape her lips. In order to take bending, you had to be a bender in the first place. Gir was right, Tahno had been speaking the truth and had actually been one hundred percent right when he said he wanted his bending back in order to take others away.
But Amon... Spirits, Aita had corrupted Amon. Aita found herself backpedaling all the way to trip over and fall on her bed. Aita had known she could teach Amon because she knew that he had waterbending in his blood even if he hadn't been a waterbender. Of course, now he was a waterbender, and every time he used the trick to taking bending, he was blood bending, or something incredibly close to blood bending.
As Aita put her head in her hands, she reflected how stupid she had been. She had had the ability to waterbend ever since she pulled herself from the spirit world. And she couldn't take her own bending because... everything was so screwed up, and she needed to tell Amon. But how could she tell Amon that she had made him the very thing he fought against. All Amon wanted was equality, and then Aita had come along and taken that chance from him.
But how she could tell him? It would break his heart. it would better to just let it go, to come up with some reason that she couldn't teach another. Better still for her to let go now. Aita needed to retreat to the Spirit World that one last time and never return.
No, doing this sort of thing was what screwed her over time and time again in her past lives. She couldn't just run away from her problems or make some excuse why she was doing this. No, for once in Aita's many lives she needed to do the right thing. She would tell Amon what had happened and she would deal with the consequences.
In so many cases she died so uselessly, young or old it was her own stupid fault, but at other times even when she died, it had been in horrible circumstances where she couldn't see the error of her ways when everyone else had. Madness wasn't always a part of Aita's past, but it certainly was a theme that cropped up time and time again.
"Spirit?" Aita's head snapped up to see Luco standing at the door. She quickly stood tall, trying to put her revalation to the side. She needed to tell Amon first. He was the one who led them, he would know what to do with this new information. Luco looked at her in concern, but shook his head, probably putting her curled up in bed shaking down to nerves. This was a very delicate time and by being so public, Amon was putting himself in a lot of danger. "We intercepted a transmission. We know where their planning to attack from and are sure a group is going to the airstrip soon to attack. We need you at the rally. No reason they might not also try to assassinate Amon when he's at the rally. They've still got that fire bender who can use lightning."
Aita took out her knife and threw it in the air, catching it effortlessly. Luco nodded and indicated that she should leave first. Aita sighed, catching it in her chest as she let him lead them out. She would tell Amon, but first she had to make sure her brother's bending was gone before then. If Amon decided to try and take his bending, or at least swear never to use waterbending again if it wasn't possible to take bending away. Which Aita had a sneaking suspicion was the case.
Amon could hold his promise never to do bending. He would make sure his actions reflected and were those of an equal and wouldn't succumb to the pressures of bending, he was one of those rare types of people. Honest and true to his convictions.
Now all Aita had to do was go to the rally make sure Amon was safe and that her brother lost his bending. That was the only thing she had to do before she left this world for good.
So little time, hopefully Amon wouldn't become too bogged down with the news, and there wouldn't be too much fuss over what happened to her. Or if there was a fuss, it was useful to Amon's cause. It would turn out alright.