Disclaimer: I do not own the Legend of Korra or the characters associated with it.
PLEASE READ: This is a Modern Day and Stripper Alternative Universe. There will be implied relationships (such as the train wreck that happened during all four books) but Korrasami will be end game. This story is rated M for a reason! Just a heads up, but this story contains: sensitive language, drugs, drug use, drug trafficking, gangs, gang violence, violence in general and other sensitive themes. If you are uncomfortable with any of these, then perhaps this story isn't for you. Genres for this story include: crime, suspense, mystery, angst, drama, action, friendship, hurt/comfort, and romance.
A/N: *Starts playing "Here It Goes Again" by OK Go* Third times the charm, enjoy!
Republic City's Night Life
Extended Summary: "Republic City stands as a beacon of freedom…" Republic City is the capital of the United Republic of Nations, located on the shores of the Yue Bay. Being a modern urban center, it boasts significant high-rise development, such as the use of the automobiles, airships, and an elevated railway transportation — but despite its technological advancements: organized crime, drug trafficking, and political corruption have overtaken the city. Who's behind it all? Are the citizens of Republic City aware of any of it? Will this city ever change for the better?
Chapter Summary: Introductions are in order.
Part 1: The Underground Kings
6:35 PM: North Side of Republic City
A door to an apartment on the North Side of Republic City rattled as a man violently shook its iron doorknob. "Why … won't … this … fucking," He spewed, his cheeks flushing red like his pocket square, "door … open!" The door stayed shut and the man's nostrils flared as he debated whether he should kick it down. His initial thought was yes he should, but he happened to be wearing very expensive, imported Fire Nation dress shoes. Father always expected them in their best when they visited —
"Brother," a voice came walking down the hall, "move aside please." The man did as he was told, stepping aside for a gentlemen in a three-piece navy blue suit with a similar red pocket square. The gentlemen slipped his key into the apartment lock and the door opened as if it suffered no damage from the previous man's assault. "… always forgetting your key …" The gentlemen mumbled as he walked in first. The man glared at his brother's back as he followed him inside, making sure to slam their door shut to convey how frustrated he was at their Father's stubbornness.
The apartment was lavished in all sorts of modern furniture that ranged from bizarre to comfortable. The walls of their open style layout were adorned with original art pieces they had picked up from their vacations in the other nations, like the piece of the Southern Air Temple in ruins that hung over the bar counter — an original by the infamous painter, Monk Gyatso that had cost a mere 35,000 yuans. Can one put a price on a masterpiece, the man (who wasn't clouded by anger at the time) had said before writing the check.
The gentlemen motioned for his younger brother to take a seat as he stepped into the kitchen. The man made another face as he unbuttoned his beige jacket before throwing himself on their (comfortable, but stylish) leather recliner. Closing his eyes, he concentrated on the sounds his older brother was making in their kitchen, listening attentively to the way ice clinked against glass and how the scotch he knew his brother was pouring had a deep swoosh sound to it. It was a relaxing technique his anger management therapist had taught him when he was a child: to shut off everything and listen. It worked in most situations.
His breathing had become stable by the time his brother returned to their living room, two glasses in his left (one with just ice, the other with scotch and ice) and a bottle of rum and scotch in his right. The eldest rearranged the coasters on their glass coffee table before setting the drinks and himself down on the adjacent couch. He slid over his brother's empty glass and the bottle of rum to get his attention. "Drink up." The gentlemen tipped back his own drink as the man situated himself on the edge of the recliner to prepare his own.
"... Do you think he'll really do it?" The man questioned, slowly sloshing his drink around as to not get any rum on his beige pants. The anger and rage that had plagued him earlier had disappeared into thin air, the only evidence that it had ever gotten hold of him were the nail indents in his palms that had threatened to break and bleed if he had squeezed his fists any tighter.
The gentlemen stared ahead at the marvelous view their southern wall gave them of Republic City — it was entirely glass and also doubled as their balcony. He continued to stare, leaning back into the couch and raising his drink to his lips. "Has father ever been one to give an empty threat?" He asked, resting his glass of scotch against his knee, not being bothered to think about the perspiration that was going to leave a ring of water later.
The man in the beige suit stayed quiet and opted to refill his glass of rum. As the dark liquid slipped in between the melting ice cubes, he thought of his father and everything he associated with him: the reason their mother left in the middle of the night with their youngest brother, the scar on his left cheek that had been the result of his father having a little too much to drink, the responsibility of inheriting his father's "company" alongside his brother. His — their father, a devil in his late 60s, was a man of reason when dealing with business affairs. He was crisp and classic, just like the suits he wore now and as they were growing up. But ultimately, he was a man you did not want in your way.
The man frowned, "If we couldn't change his mind the last few times we spoke, then I say we—"
"— I say we get rid of him," his brother calmly suggested as he tipped the rest of the scotch into his mouth. He leaned forward against his elbows to pour the remaining scotch into his glass before glancing up at his sibling with a dark twinkle in his eye. "Father never stood for someone in his way, so why should we?"
The man stayed quiet, sipping the remains of his rum as a thought crossed his mind: the apple never fell far from the tree. Even a rotten one.
Chapter 1: Welcome to Republic City!
8:15 PM: Republic City
An elderly woman swept the outside patio of her tiny grocery store in the western part of the city as the sun started to set. Humming to herself, she swept the dirt from under the welcome mat while the jazz music coming from the radio inside faded away, replaced by a voice she heard every day around this time: Shiro Shinobi.
"Good evening folks! Shiro Shinobi checking in one last time. What a fine afternoon it is today in beautiful Republic City!"
A young man dressed in a sharp suit, driving a nice vehicle passed by the elderly woman's shop. His fingers tapped against the steering wheel in anticipation as he slowed to a stop at a red light. To keep busy, he adjusted his rear view mirror. He caught his reflection and smiled to himself as he quickly fixed his mustache and eliminated any wrinkles in his suit. He glanced to his left where there was a bouquet of flowers in his passenger seat just as the light turned green and Shiro Shinobi came back on the air:
"Wait a minute — Folks! I just got a wonderful idea! With predicted clear skies for the next three days and nights, a nice picnic style dinner in Central City Park would be magnificent! A nice time under the stars with someone lovely … I hope all you young lovers out there that are tuning in are taking notes …"
An older man driving an older vehicle with its windows down, pulled into a neighborhood. He drove carefully and waved at his neighbors that were enjoying the afternoon by walking around the block. After a couple of turns, the man pulled over in front of a home where children and dog toys were scattered all over the driveway. The man exited his car with a small smile on his face, loosening his tie while the sounds of a dog barking and children laughing came from behind the house. As the man stepped around his kid's toys, his youngest was peeking around the curtains that covered the bay window in the living room. He gasped and ran for the door, yelling "Daddy's home! Daddy's home!" He patiently waited next to the coat rack as his siblings ran inside, followed by the family dog.
The front door opened and closed — a chorus of "Daddy!" "Welcome home!" "Mom made noodles for dinner!" got his wife's attention with a smile. She stepped out of the kitchen, wiping her hands against a rag as Shiro Shinobi's voice became background noise in this already lively home.
"For all you older folk with your more seasoned love, a nice relaxing dinner with the ones you cherish sounds great too … Ah, honey, if you are listening in, I'll be home soon …"
A bouncer waved the next couple of people inside as others exited. Signaling for the next pair to wait because the club was currently at full capacity, the bouncer glanced at his wrist watch. He still had another six hours to go before he could go home and enjoy the next book to the crime series that his friend, a bartender at this club, had gotten him into. He sighed to himself, standing up straight and crossing his arms over his chest to appear even more intimidating.
The bartender of the club mixed drinks behind the counter for two girls who had just turned 21. She glanced up every now and then to make sure that no one at her side of the bar was waiting on her. Topping off what she called her "special birthday drinks" with tiny umbrellas, she slid them over the bar towards the girls, yelling that it was on the house over the club music. Wiping down the bar with a rag, she made sure there wasn't anyone waiting on her one last time before slipping into the break room.
"Hey, cover for me real quick? My back's killing me." She said, throwing herself down on one of the faded recliners. Her co-worker offered her the rest of his PB&J on his way out but she quickly declined.
The bartender closed her eyes and relaxed, vaguely listening to Shiro Shinobi's late afternoon broadcast coming from the radio in the corner of the break room.
"And of course, for those of you still searching for the one: don't fret! Why, I didn't meet my wife until I was a pimply faced late-twenty year old man and we married ten years later. And I'll be soon turning 40! What I'm trying to say is that good things take time, so let them … But while you're waiting! — if you are of legal age — hit up downtown! There are plenty of fun opportunities waiting for you on the infamous 6th street of Republic City — which reminds me, this late afternoon broadcast is brought to you by our sponsor: The Flaming Fire Ferret: hottest bar in Downtown Republic City."
The elderly woman sweeping outside her shop wiped the sweat coming down her forehead. Mumbling to herself that she was getting too old for this, she slowly walked inside her grocery store, flipping the "OPEN" sign to "CLOSED."
"Well folks, I only got one minute on the air until I'm outta here, so if you're tuning in as you close up shop for the night —"
The man dressed in a sharp suit pulled up in front of an apartment complex. Stepping out of his vehicle with the bouquet of flowers, he took a shaky breath to calm his nerves. One breath wasn't enough to calm himself down, so he took a couple of more, all the while combing through his hair, fixing his mustache, and making sure his suit was nice and crisp.
Feeling a little at ease, he walked up to the entrance of the apartment complex where an older bellhop opened the door to let him in. "Good evening sir." The man politely nodded back, heading straight for the elevator.
While inside the elevator, the man in the sharp suit noticed that all sides of the elevator were polished to the point that they acted as mirrors — even the floor! Feeling nervous again, he fixed the edges of his mustache and brushed off imaginary lint until the doors to the eighth floor chimed open. There was an apartment door at the end of the hall: 8A — his destination.
Taking a deep breath, he slowly made his descent down the hall. As he walked, he felt as if he was walking in place and wasn't actually getting any closer to his date's apartment door. He pulled at the edge of his collar — was it hot in here?
After an eternity of walking, he made it. Taking one more deep breath, he knocked three times.
"Coming!" Someone shouted from inside. The man in the sharp suit smiled to himself, all signs of being previously nervous forgotten. His date was on the other side of that door.
Another man in a similar sharp suit opened the door, smiling when he noticed the flowers, "Hey! You looked great. Are those for me?"
The first man in the sharp suit just smiled, handing his date the bouquet.
"— or on your way to dinner with a special someone on your arm, —"
"Welcome home, dear." His wife said, walking around the kids that gripped onto their father's legs to give him a quick kiss on the cheek.
The older man smiled at his wife before picking up his youngest son. He watched his wife walk away, calling for Baxter the family dog, to follow her, as his children talked all at once.
"Dad! Dad! We dug a huge pool in the backyard today!" His eldest daughter and son, twins, beamed, their cheeks and hands covered in all sorts of dirt.
"Daddy, I drew something for you in art class! I'll give it to you after dinner!" His youngest daughter smiled, jumping up and down in excitement.
His youngest son opted to stay quiet, resting his head against his dad's shoulder for some comfort.
The man chuckled, listening attentively to each one of their stories as they followed him into the dining room to help their mother set up dinner.
"— or on your way home from work, —"
The bartender sighed to herself, adjusting her position in the old reclining chair to get in a quick power nap before her boss noticed that the newbie was working the bar. Oh well, it's not like her boss was a dick or anything, but her back was aching from having previously scrubbed the floors before the bar opened and the newbie could use the experience. She chuckled to herself, letting her eyes slowly shut.
"— or currently at work!"
The sun had officially set over Republic City, the only remaining piece of its existence was the orange hue it left in its wake. After a few moments, the orange hue also began to fade, being replaced by the dark blue that brought the night sky with it. Drivers began to turn on their headlights, street lamps flickered on, and offices opened up their blinds to reveal the workrooms that were still functioning at this hour.
A tanned girl in her early twenties, wearing a white tank top and blue sweatpants with her hair down, was sitting on the roof of her apartment building, enjoying the afternoon. She took a drag of her cigarette and let the smoke be carried away by the breeze as the huge skyscrapers in the distance replaced the sun and illuminated Republic City for the night.
Her window was open, the breeze also catching the radio that was on in her living room, carrying Shiro Shinobi's voice up the fire escape and to the roof where she sat. "... The clock has just struck eight thirty, which means my job is over and Republic City's infamous 'Night Life' has officially begun. Stay safe and have fun. See you again bright and early tomorrow morning everyone. This is Shiro Shinobi, signing off for today!"
[FRIDAY, July 3rd]
12:15 PM: West Side of Republic City
Tahno scratched his head and wrinkled his nose as he skimmed through two of Zolt's old accounting books — the ones that he had found on the top shelf, full of dust when he moved into the head office a little over a year ago. He tapped his fingers against his desk as his eyes skimmed from one book to another, comparing the changes Zolt had made (or hired someone else to make, really) in the past years to make his Strip Club look legitimate and in no way extorting anyone. And most importantly, just profitable enough to avoid suspicion from anyone with some common sense in Republic City (i.e. the cops.)
His office phone began to ring as he flipped through the pages of the fake account book Zolt's accountants had created, in case their business was ever questioned or suspected of any wrong doing. Tahno didn't even glance at the Caller ID, opting to just grab the desk phone and bring it up to his ear. "What? I said I wasn't to be disturbed." He said, a hint of annoyance rolling off his tongue as he flipped through the other account book that actually held Zolt's Babes legitimate financial records. He noted that there were a lot of questionable cash transactions that didn't make it into the other "totally a legit business" book.
"Is that anyway to talk to your superior?" A deep voice growled on the other end, with a hint of respiratory problems, "I could easily add to that lil' debt of yours, ya kno'?"
"Shit," Tahno jumped in his seat, covering the bottom of the receiver — the caller ID flashed "Big Boss". Squeezing his eyes shut, Tahno made a scrunched up face before uncovering the receiver. "No sir, I'm sorry. That um," Tahno cleared his throat, "won't be necessary. You caught me at a bad time, is all…" Tahno explained, patting around his suit pockets for his cigarette carton. Talking to Zolt always put him on edge.
Tahno expected his superior to growl, or maybe throw a couple of curse words at him, but Zolt laughed. He let loose and gave a good, hearty, deep laugh: the kind that made anyone with lung problems hack and cough until they could get themselves under control. Tahno grimaced and pulled the receiver away, Zolt's hollering and coughing further damaging his already bad eardrums — that's what working in a strip club with heavy bass music can do to you in a couple of years.
Zolt finally managed to get himself under control, clearing his throat a couple of times on the other end, "Ah Tahno. I'm just fucking with ya'." Tahno frowned deeply. Zolt and his jokes — inside jokes were funny, joking about adding to a 100k debt was not. Soon enough, he found his pack of cigarettes, United Republic Spirits, under a pile of papers, with only a couple cigs left. 'Now where had I see my lighter?' "I'm just calling to let you know that I'm gonna stop by on Saturday —"
Tahno paused. "Wait, you mean this Saturday? … As in tomorrow?"
"Ya, I meant this Saturday—" Zolt stated firmly. Tahno could just hear the frown in his voice. "Why? Is there a problem, or something, I should know about?"
Tahno shook his head despite Zolt not being in his office. "No! No, nope. No problem here what so ever." He reassured, spotting a transparent yellow lighter amongst his office supplies in his desk drawer. With shaky hands, Tahno grabbed it and thought over everything that needed to be prepared, washed, or fixed prior to Zolt's arrival. 'Gotta clean the VIP lounge, wash the glasses, and it might be a good call to buy some sweet stuff …' He placed a cigarette in between his lips, balancing the receiver against his neck and shoulder in order to use both of his hands as Zolt continued.
"Hmph. Good. That's what I like to hear. But, anyways — this Saturday, tomorrow. I just wanna see how things are running, ya kno'? So have the VIP Lounge ready for me with a couple of babes would ya'. Just a few of them since I'm gonna bring some muscle with me — " Tahno zoned out; Zolt was just prepping him on things he already knew ("I want this these types of drinks, these type of women, this kind of music, etc..") Taking a drag, heleaned back into his office chair, holding the smoke within his lungs, thinking about what The Avatar might say if he hit them up right now for an emergency. "— Like that green eyed one. Ya kno' which one I'm talking about? She's got nice tits and a tight ass ..."
Tahno exhaled slowly (the smoke adding to the already haziness of his office), focusing on Zolt's questions and recalling all the green eyed girls. There were a handful, but only one of them was pretty enough to see Zolt personally. He placed his cigarette back in between his lips, "You mean Miss Sato?"
"Ya … Ya, I think that was her name," Zolt mumbled. "So we good? I'll head down to the club tomorrow around … 11-ish. Me and my boys will get there, head up stairs, where the girls are waiting for us and … everyone will have a good time! Got that?" Zolt said, an edge to his last phrase that left no room for questions or suggestions.
Tahno nodded to himself, propping his feet up against his desk. "You go it boss." He said calmly, watching the cherry burn out slowly — cigarettes never failed to calm his nerves. (As well as other … substances, but he was fresh out at the moment. Tahno frowned and made a mental note to hit up his dealer later today, regardless if it would be extra, so he could replenish his stash and give Zolt some much need relaxation tomorrow.)
"Great, that's what I like to hear! I'll see you tomorrow." Zolt hung up. Tahno blew a stream of almost clear smoke up at the ceiling before leaning over to crush the stub in his ashtray. Next to his ashtray was a green post-it he remembered slapping down in a hurry so he wouldn't forget that "Asami/Miss Sato requested off on Saturday, July 4th, FIND REPLACEMENT ASAP!"
Tahno froze, "Fucking shit."
12:21 PM: Zolt's Babes
Tahno had stared at the green post-it for about five minutes, trying to figure out a way to get Asami to work tonight, when there came a knock at his door. Startled, Tahno sat up straight and pulled another cigarette from his pack (three left) before signaling for them to come in. He had a 12:30 interview scheduled (he noticed that they were ten minutes early): a dark man with long hair pulled back into a low ponytail walked in, flashing Tahno a charming smile.
"I'm Tarrlok, a pleasure to meet with you." The man introduced, extending a hand to Tahno. If Tarrlok had noticed the amount of smoke in Tahno's office, he chose not to comment on it. Tahno smiled politely and returned the handshake, gesturing for Tarrlok to have a seat at one of the two chairs situated in front of his desk. Tarrlok did and Tahno took a moment to study his body language: relaxed but professional, attentive but not too focused, positive but not overly optimistic — at this rate, Tarrlok could walk out of Tahno's office with a new job.
"Nice to meet you Tarrlok. I'm Tahno, the head manager here. Let's get straight to it then: I understand that you are looking for a job?" Tahno started off, folding his hands over his desk.
Tarrlok nodded and smiled politely, "Yes I am. I brought a resume with me if you wish to review it …" he said, offering the vanilla folder he had walked in with. Tahno made sure to take his time, skimming through the two-paged resume carefully, even though he liked Tarrlok's character and the way he initially presented himself. (As Tahno flipped to the second page, he noticed that the resume itself was impressive: Tarrlok had been busy after graduating from Republic City Academy.)
"Hm." Tahno said, leaning back in his office chair to prop his feet on his desk. He flipped through the file in his hands, occasionally looking up at the man the file belonged too — who smiled politely and cleared his throat, trying not to appear too obvious by looking around Tahno's office as he waited. (The walls of Tahno's office were bare and there was no other furniture in the room other than his desk, a couple of chairs, and a bookshelf. The only thing worth looking at was behind Tahno's desk: a huge bay window facing Downtown and the central part of Republic City. A lovely view, especially at night.) Tahno politely smiled back - not that he was amused by anything, but to make Tarrlok sitting in front of his desk nervous. It was an interview tactic.
Tahno took a quick drag of his cigarette. Taking his feet off his desk, he dropped the file down right in front of him and stubbed his cigarette in the ashtray. Leaning forward, he stared at the man, dead in his blue eyes.
"So." Tahno began, blowing a stream of smoke towards the ceiling. "Tarrlok. Why should I hire you? There are plenty of other capable applicants." The age old question. (And there were a lot of other capable applicants. They had just put up the "WE'RE HIRING!" sign at the bar about a week ago.)
Tarrlok didn't look fazed and leaned forward in his chair as well. "I'm a hard worker and (he gestured to his resume) have a lot of experience dealing with people. I understand that this club has a reputation to uphold as one of the best in this side of town, and I'm willing to do what it takes to make sure we maintain this reputation. Also, I —" Tarrlok looked like he had more to say, but Tahno held a hand up to stop him.
The head manager at Zolt' Babes liked what he saw and also like what he heard. It was obvious to anyone with a brain that Tarrlok was cut from a different cloth a lot of the current employees were from. Having someone with Tarrlok's intelligence, experience, and charm could be useful in the long run.
"Come in early tomorrow, at around … late 3 PM, just before the first shift. I'll have you tail one of the older guys in the back so you can learn the ropes." Tahno said, standing up from his seat. He smoothed out his navy blue suit as Tarrlok collected his thoughts. "Your shift starts at 7 PM and you'll get off at 1 AM." Tahno gave Tarrlok an easy smile, "You'll be here for three shifts, but only working two, so I suggest you get some rest –"
"With all due respect," Tarrlok said, still sitting in his chair, "I was hoping to work as a security guard or someone on the floor, not backstage —"
"Everyone starts out at the bottom, kid." Tahno said politely while fixing his jacket cuff, and before Tarrlok could say anything, "On your way out, speak with my secretary, he'll bring you up to speed with all the details." If Tarrlok wasn't pleased, he didn't show it. Collecting his resume, he bid Tahno a farewell and calmly made his way out of his office.
Eye catch: Tahno slumped in his office chair, his back and arms sore from cleaning out the VIP Lounge before Zolt's arrival tomorrow. Groaning, he checked his wrist watch for the time: 2:12 PM. 'I should probably hit up my dealer …'
Crackling his knuckles, Tahno pulled out his personal cell phone from his desk drawer. Slowly leaning back into his chair as to not strain anything, he opened up his contacts and found who he was looking for. Opening up the option to message that person, he quickly typed "Yo, think you can stop by and sell me an ounce plus my usual package? I'll pay extra for "express shipping"." He hit send and placed his cellphone on his desk with its ringer on high. Popping his feet up next to his cell phone, Tahno figure he could squeeze in a cat nap before Zolt's Babes opened at 4 PM.
Just as he was dosing off, his phone buzzed. The tiny screen displayed an envelope, the words "(1) New Message" flashing. Tahno blinked himself awake, reaching for his device without taking his feet off his desk, "Well that was fast …" He mumbled as he flipped his phone open.
The message read: "Sure thing yo. And no need for express shipping tax, I'm making deliveries today." Tahno had just finished reading his dealer's message when another text message came in. It said: "I'll be there in 20."
Tahno smiled, "Look likes I can squeeze in another cat nap." He placed his phone back on his desk and got comfortable.
An hour later, Tahno awoke due to a kink in his neck. He winced as he slowly removed his feet from his desk and sat up straight in his chair. While rubbing his neck, he noticed a box on his desk with one of his green post-it taped to it. "Your secretary told me not to wake you, so I'll just put this on your tab. Don't forget! – The Avatar."
Tahno sat with his back to the bar. With a club soda in his left hand and his right impatiently tapping against the bar counter, he scanned the crowd for a certain "green eyed goddess" (the words were not his, but the fellow to his left, drunk out of his mind with no cash to his name at the moment, courtesy of the said "green eyed goddess" aka Miss Sato.)
The minutes flew by. No sign of Miss Sato working the floor or the elevated platforms where the poles were lite up by flashing neon colors. Frowning and frustrated, Tahno drowned the rest of his soda and slammed the empty can down on the counter with enough force to leave a scratch against the mahogany. The drunk fellow to his left gave him a blank stare before turning back to finish off his last beer of the night.
Pushing off of the bar, Tahno walked onto the floor. "I need a visual on Miss Sato." He spoke into the mini microphone on the lapels of his suit, grey eyes scanning the semi-private booths along the walls and circular booths down on the floor near the main stage where Amateur Night had taken place last shift. Several of the girls noticed him walking around, like Ginger, a favorite amongst civilians and politicians alike. She was wearing a set of baby blue pumps that matched her lingerie combo, the colors really popping underneath the black light of the club.
"Hey boss." She purred, throwing one arm around Tahno's shoulders and the other coming to cup Tahno's bicep under his jacket. He tried not to roll his eyes when she gave it a light squeeze, "Anything I can do for ya?" Her eyes changed color with the flashing neon lights around the facility: green, blue, red, yellow, white, green, blue, etc.
"Ginger, please remove yourself from me." Tahno said firmly, also taking a step back from one of the club's favorites. It was a sales tactic – pull a couple of moves on the boss to get some attention from the ones with the cash. Ginger just smiled seductively, drawing a few glances from the patrons walking around. It was obviously working. And Tahno had to admit that it was also impressive, considering that Ginger had been working the third shift for a little over a few months.
"Ah, have some fun, boss!" She teased, moving in to dust off Tahno's jacket. She made eye contact with a patron that had a wandering eye and winked to seal the deal.
"No visual on Sato, sir." One of the security guards checked in, reporting from the observation room on the second floor.
Tahno pressed his fingers to his ear piece, listening in as other guards checked in and confirmed that none of them had a visual on Miss Sato at their stations.
"Ginger." Tahno said as the red head fixed his lapels. "Have you seen Miss Sato?"
"Hm, Miss Sato?" Ginger thought out load. She pressed a finger against her cherry red lips in thought, catching more glances and some stares from the nearby patrons. "Oh yah, a couple of older politicians bought her for the night. They're in the back." She said, a hint of annoyance laced in between her words. It wasn't every day that a few patrons, much less a few politicians, bought a girl or two for the night. And before Tahno could ask any more questions, Ginger was off to screw some sucker out of their cash – the patron that she had previously winked at.
Tahno huffed, radioing in his thanks to the security guards posted throughout the club. Leaving the main floor, Tahno walked quickly to his office upstairs. As the music died down behind the concrete walls of the back portion of the club, Tahno frowned, 'Shit, I'm going to have to call her tomorrow after her shift at Beifong's and beg her to come in …'
[SATURDAY, July 4th]
3:40 PM: Zolt's Babes
"Hey newbie!" Someone shouted from his right.
Tarrlok looked up after he punched in — three men, standing side by side were staring at him. One of them, a man with a mustache, waved him over. Tarrlok sent them a small nod as he moved aside to let his other co-workers clock in. He tried to appear casual as he walked toward the group of guys hanging out by the light grid. They were a curious bunch: one man was covered in tattoos in all areas except his face, the other was so muscular that it looked like his biceps and pecks were going to burst when he crossed his arms, and the last one (who had called Tarrlok over) was the smallest of the three with a thin mustache and ashy skin.
'Maybe I need to establish some connections.' Tarrlok thought, mentally preparing his charm.
"So you the newbie huh?" The man with mustache asked, smacking his gum as he sized him up. He came up to Tarrlok's shoulders but that didn't seem to faze him. 'The nerve of this one.'
Tarrlok politely smiled, meeting all three of their curious gazes, "Yes, that would be me. Nice to meet you, I'm Tarrlok." He gestured to the three of them, "and you three gentlemen would be …?" 'They've obviously Triple Threat gang members …'
They stayed quiet. Tarrlok cleared his throat, waiting for their response. The atmosphere around the four of them grew thick. Tarrlok was about to gesture that he was going to leave when the muscular one started laughing. And not a polite chuckle, but the kind where you grab your gut and throw your head back. His buddies joined him and Tarrlok only felt that it was polite if he chuckled along too, even if he was clueless as to why they were laughing. 'Alright then. A little dim, but these fellows will do.'
"Ah, lighten up kid! No need to act so … polite." The guy covered in tattoos explained, slapping Tarrlok on the shoulder for good measure. Tarrlok tried not to stumble from the force of it and cracked a smile as their laughs died down. After everyone caught their breath, they invited him over to a group of foldable chairs behind the light grid.
"So," The muscular one started as the chair creaked and groaned against his weight, "You a Triad too?" His buddies leaned in closer, eager for Tarrlok's answer.
Tarrlok made sure to keep his tone neutral as he answered, "I'm afraid not." (He had heard what gang members did to non-gang members when they detected an ounce of disrespect. But those were just rumors.) 'I'd never be a filthy Triad member…' He took a moment to look around, noting that while Zolt's Babes had two floors, only every once in a while would someone head up to the second floor, like a nicely dressed employee. 'So only important people or certain employees can go to the second floor, interesting.' Tarrlok noticed.
"Really?" The tattooed guy asked with his eyebrows raised, bringing Tarrlok's attention back to the topic. "Well you should think about joining the Triads if you're gonna work here –"
"Lightning Bolt Zolt owns his fine establishment and uh, let's just say," The man with the mustache leaned back against his seat, folding his arms over his chest and gave Tarrlok a sly grin. "That members get certain … benefits." He used air quotes around the word benefits.
"Nice benefits, if you know what I mean." The tattooed one continued, gesturing to the dancer that was walking by. She winked at Tarrlok and waved to Butaka but paid no mind to Ping or Viper when they winked and waved.
Tarrlok slightly raised his eyebrows, a little taken back by the forwardness of this club, "Oh. Uh, that's good to know…" 'Disgusting.'
"Guys! Where are our manners?" The muscular one interrupted, "I'm Butaka, the bouncer." He smiled, leaning over to shake Tarrlok's hand. His hand were soft but his handshake firm and warm. It reminded Tarrlok of the businessmen he was currently working for, they had dirty hands and firm handshakes. "The one with the mustache is Ping—" Ping leaned forward in his chair and gave a salute. "He works the lights. And the guy covered in tattoos is Viper. The head bartender." Viper leaned over Ping and Butaka to shake Tarrlok's hand. His grip was firm, but cold, unlike Butaka's. His handshake reminded Tarrlok of his past employer's icy grip.
"Nice to officially meet ya man. Welcome to Zolt's Babes! Hottest service in Republic City or your money back!" Viper smiled, flashing Tarrlok his pearly whites. "That's the motto, I gotta say it at least once a night." He laughed, relaxing back against his seat. "We don't actually give them their money back though …" Tarrlok nodded, watching as more dancers who worked the day shift started to pass by. Some of them noticed Tarrlok, others ignored him. Tarrlok paid them no mind, not interested to begin with. He relaxed and leaned back into his seat just as Ping spoke up.
"Word of caution though —" Ping said once the dancers had all passed. "You can look, but you can't touch," He smirked, "Well at least, during club hours." He punched Butaka's shoulder as Viper dramatically gagged. Tarrlok silently agreed with Viper but chose not to say anything. 'Why in the world would she work at this disgusting establishment?' He frowned.
"Ping, that's fucking disgusting and you know it." Viper said, almost shoving Ping of out his seat onto the floor. Ping caught himself before he could fall, still laughing, not at all fazed by Viper's disgust. "Tarrlok, don't listen to this fuck bag," He gestured to Ping, "The girls here are nice to look at, but don't take advantages of those benefits … They're not very beneficial if you catch my drift." He said, crossing his tattooed arms over his chest.
"Ya, ya. What Vips said! The girls here are nice eye candy and all, but I'd never want to bed any of them …" He leaned back in his chair, fixing his mustache as a thought came to him. "… Except Miss Sato." He grinned to himself, licking his lips. "Mmm! I'd like a piece of that! Yes, please and thank you!" He said, rubbing his hands together.
'Well that name sounds awfully familiar. I wonder …' Tarrlok was about to ask more about Miss Sato when Viper put a hand to chin. "Hm. You got a point there, Ping Pong." He turned to Tarrlok and winked, "If there's any lady worth getting with here, it's Miss Sato. Probably one of the only ones here who's not a complete ratchet or –"
"You two, shut it." Butaka said, sitting up straight. "The boss is headed over here." Viper and Ping did as Butaka said and straightened up as well.
Tarrlok followed Butaka's line of sight to find a man in a sharp navy suit walking over to them — Tahno, the man that hired him yesterday. He looked a lot more stressed than the man who was sitting in his smoky office, staring off into space. Tarrlok frowned slightly, recalling that this was also the man that had told him that "everyone starts out at the bottom, kid." 'Thanks to you, my job is a lot harder now.'
"Gentlemen." Tahno smiled, hands in his pants pocket. The men nodded back while Tarrlok politely smiled, keeping up appearances.
"Ah, good group of friends you made." Tahno said, acknowledging Tarrlok and gesturing at Butaka, Ping, and Viper. Tarrlok nodded, 'Don't be fooled. We are far from friends at the moment.'
Tahno turned his gaze away from Tarrlok, "Ping, do me a favor and show Tarrlok the ropes? I'm gonna have him work the backstage in the meantime." He said, checking his wrist watch.
Ping nodded, "Sure thing boss."
"Great." Tahno forcibly smiled, "Now that everything is settled, I suggest we start the night — Butaka, some regulars are already outside, bright and early as usual." Butaka gave a dry laugh as he excused himself. "Viper, Zolt's gonna stop by later tonight so when I signal you, start making his favorite drinks. I'll arrange for a girl to come by and pick them up every … ten minutes or so, if he's planning on passing out in the Lounge." Viper nodded as he got up and headed for the bar. "And Ping, we're gonna mix things up a bit so I want you to mix house settings 1 and 3 tonight. Talk to the DJ about alternating with the music." Ping nodded, gesturing for Tarrlok to follow him. 'And the first day on the job begins …' Tarrlok thought, smiling to himself at the double meaning.
"Good, now that that's out of the way…" Tahno mumbled to himself, moving away from the light grids towards the set of stairs that led up to the second floor, where his office was located. Half way up, he stopped to lean against the railing, watching his employees scramble around to begin the night.
"Alright everyone," He shouted, all employees halting. "Tonight's an important night — The Big Boss, Zolt, is going to stop by around 11 and I don't want him to believe that we've turned this place into a shit hole." There was a collection of murmurs going through the crowd, "If you would like to keep your jobs, I suggest no one fuck up tonight." Tahno shouted, walking back up the stairs as his employees continued where they left off, but with a bit more zeal.
"That's Tahno, the head manager." Ping explained as he and Tarrlok walked towards the stairs leading up to the DJ booth. "He's a pretty chill guy, but he's strict when he needs to be, so don't get on his bad side." Ping suddenly stopped mid step, turning to face Tarrlok with a gleam in his eyes. He bent down to whisper, "And rumor has it, he's fucking Miss Sato." Ping resumed walking, mumbling about who in their right mind would fuck one of their employees.
Tarrlok's eyes widened at this new piece of information. 'He's going to be a problem then ...'
Tahno stared at his office phone, tapping his fingers against his desk. His tapping corresponded with the bass track the DJ was playing on the floor at the moment, its bass pulsing through the walls of his office.
Zolt would be here in a couple of hours, having personally requested a dancer that had requested today off. Tahno had tried to catch Asami at an off moment yesterday, to let her know that he was going to have to deny her request off, but that girl was a favorite amongst the customers, never having an off moment. Meaning, that here Tahno was, a day later, Asami asleep in her apartment after a 6-hour lunch shift at Beifong's Diner, thinking she had the rest day off, when in reality, she did not – expect she didn't know that at the moment.
Tahno began to tap his foot against the floorboards. He'd have to do the inevitable and call her on her cell — like he should've done ages ago. (He'd made it a point not to call Asami's cell when she was sleeping after a few … incidents.)
Before he could get second thoughts, he reached for the office phone and secured it snuggly against his shoulder and jaw as he reached for his last cigarette and lighter. He'd have to make a run to the store later. Keeping the phone against the crook of his neck, he dialed Asami's cell number and lit his cigarette as the phone began to ring.
"Let's hope she's not too mad," He reassured, but who was he kidding.
There was a sleepy silence that hung over Asami's apartment. It was small, but homey; two fans on low, as well as a light breeze coming from her open window that added to the effect. Amongst the bedding, lost in deep slumber, laid Asami Sato. She was curled into herself, hidden underneath her maroon comforter, a throw blanket, and two pillows in her full sized bed (a mattress on two boxed springs actually.) Her breathing was slow and even, the comforter rising and falling steadily.
On the nightstand, next to her bed, was a battery operated clock (the power went out frequently) and two cellphones. As the clock turned to 8:02 PM, one phone began to ring, vibrating against the wooden stand. Asami's breathing stayed slow and even as it rang itself out. Her single bedroom apartment was quiet for a moment before it started ringing and buzzing again.
Somewhere in dreamland, Asami heard a sound. It was faint, but consistent. And annoying.
Asami scrunched up her face as she came too. Her cell phone was ringing— not an alarm, but a call. Wait, that wasn't her normal ringtone – she groaned, refusing to accept the fact that one, it was her other cell phone and two, she would have to leave the warmth of her bed to answer it.
'If I ignore it, they'll go away.' She thought, her mind still hazy enough to slip back into dream land after her phone stopped ringing for the second time. Sighing in content, Asami readjusted herself under her pile of blankets to slip comfortably back into deep sleep — her cell phone had others plans, the shrill sound of that consistent little chime making that apparent as it rang for the third time. Asami frowned, her anger flushing out whatever sleep she had left in her system.
"What … the fuck," Asami rubbed a hand over her face, "do … you want?" She growled, pushing her hair away as she rolled over to snatch her phone. She flipped it open, not bothering to check the caller ID. "This better be fucking important." She threatened as she pressed the heel of her hand to rub the sleep out of her eyes.
"Good evening, my lovely niece." Tahno, of course it was her fucking uncle.
"No," Asami growled, throwing her comforter back over herself to hide amongst her bedding (though she still kept her phone pressed against her ear. As mad as she was for being rudely awoken, this was the man that practically raised her after her mother was murdered and her father sentenced to prison for 30 years.)
"But — come on! Please …wait a minute – you didn't even know what I was going to say!" Tahno defended and Asami could picture him grinding his cigarette into his ashtray in frustration, probably burning the tips of his fingers too.
Asami huffed again, shuffling further into her pillows, "You called my other cell phone, Tahno."
"Fuck…" Tahno mumbled to himself. He probably hadn't noticed that he dialed the wrong number, seeing that her personal cell and her stripper cell phone numbers were almost identical.
Asami realized that her pillows were nice and refreshing – which meant at this rate, they'd lure her right back into dreamland. "You have ten seconds to explain why you are calling me on my day off before I hang up and turn off both my phones and go back to sleep without a flying fuck." She growled, letting her eyes flutter close. 'Ten… Nine… Eight –'
"Zolt's coming by the club later tonight and he requested you by name." Her uncle said, straight to the point.
Asami made a face and buried herself deeper into the pillows, "Why didn't you fucking tell me this yesterday when I was working!?" She said, her voice muffled by her heavenly pillows that she wouldn't be sleeping on until tomorrow morning, after her graveyard shift at Beifong's. Asami felt like she wanted to sob.
"It was a Friday night, I never had a chance to go up to you!" He defended.
Although he had a point, Asami was still groggy from her interrupted slumber which resulted in her frustration. She unwillingly kicked the comforter to the end of the bed, the coolness of her room caressing her exposed skin. She made another annoyed face, eyes still closed. "You owe me one, Tahno."
He sighed in relief on the other end, "Oh god! Thank you so much —" Asami shut her phone, abruptly ending the call. Normally she wouldn't have been so rude, but Tahno knew what he was going up against when he called her while she was asleep, no less right after a lunch shift at Beifong's, one of the most popular 24Hr diners in Republic City.
Rubbing her hands all over her face, Asami took her time getting out of bed (meaning she tried to doze off one last time before giving up. The urge to sleep had left her.) Swinging her legs off the edge, she stretched a bit and glanced at her clock: 8:05 PM
"That son of a bitch — I haven't even slept four hours! Now I'm gonna have to work all fucking night and at the diner too …" She cursed under her breath as she made her way to the kitchen in the corner of her apartment to make two pots of coffee.
Eye-catch: "Thank you, have a wonderful evening!" The receptionist behind the desk waved politely before returning to her phone call, having a hushed conversation about some person named Barbara and her husband. A female in a tailored navy three-piece suit waved goodbye in return as she walked towards the heavy glass doors at the front of the building. The sun was beginning to set, giving Republic City a nice cool breeze to enjoy the incoming night with. The light wind ruffed the female's ponytail as she slipped out of the building and into the commotion that you can only find in Central Republic City.
Side stepping away from a gentleman that was having an aggressive conversation on his cell phone, she glanced at her flashy wristwatch: 8:10 PM. She took a deep breath, inhaling the city and all its pollution – home sweet home.
With her briefcase securely in hand, she turned onto the Main Street where several other pedestrians were in suits like hers, carrying briefcases much like her own. She smirked to herself, thinking that theirs probably held important legal or business documents (and maybe an assortment of pens) while hers had once held almost 100 grand about an hour ago.
A gentlemen walking on the opposite side of the sideway, heading in the opposite direction as her, did a double take at her choice of attire. She smirked, fully aware that he wasn't judging her based on her suit – he was probably interested in the shiny button attached to the lapel of her jacket: "Re-elect President Raiko!" Given to her by the president of Republic City himself – his way of thanking her for a very important delivery. She ignored his glare as they brushed shoulders – obviously, some people didn't agree with today's politics.
The women continued walking, a spring in her step as she walked amongst some of Republic City's tallest buildings. After a few minutes, she glanced over her shoulder twice to make sure no one was watching as she slipped into the nearest alley between two skyscrapers. She ignored the filth that was probably building up on her Fire Nation imported shoes as she trudged through week old trash. Another alley with a dead end met up with the one she was trudging through, making it perfect for a secret conversation. 'Just like in the movies…' She smiled, placing her leather briefcase up against some stacked cardboard boxes that had been discarded.
Whistling to the tune of the city, she unlocked the case with a six digit code – it popped open, revealing its contents to be a simple grey cellphone. 'The briefcase that once held about 100 grand, now the house of a disposable cell.' She amused herself, retrieving the phone to make an important call to her employer.
After dialing the only number on the device, she brought it up to her ear and waited for the other line to pick up. After three rings, a deep voice on the other line answered, "I take it Raiko received our generous donation."
The women leaned against the backside of one building that made up half of the alley. "He sends his most humble regardless." She recalled, imitating Raiko's voice as best as she could while she tried to one handedly remove his campaign button from her jacket. She wasn't the biggest fan of politics, just a messenger. "Ya know," She added, "I was surprised at how easy it was to get passed his security guards. They just waved me right in."
Her employer sounded amused as he spoke, "Let's just say that Raiko's real guards happened to take a coffee break when you showed up."
The women gave a low whistle, finally removing the Re-elect Raiko campaign button. The pin had left a tiny hole in her lapel, but nothing she couldn't fix. "Oh, how sly. I wasn't aware that we had some snakes on the force." She held up the button at eye level, moving it side to side to watch how the remaining afternoon light bounced off it.
Her boss chose not to reply to her comment, "Come by the island tomorrow. We'll talk more about phase two."
The women nodded, throwing Raiko's campaign button amongst the piles of trash that littered this particular alley, "You got it, I'll head over there first thing in the morning." They exchanged goodbyes.
Humming a random tune, the women closed her brief case and went about opening the back of her disposable phone. She removed the battery and the tiny SIM card carefully, placing them both in the inside pocket of her suit jacket. "Oops," She smirked, dropping the burner phone against the concrete and slamming the heel of her expensive shoes into it until it was broken up into pieces even a professional couldn't reassemble.
"Can never be too careful," She said to no one in particular, gathering her things and exiting the alley the same way she came.
9:01 PM: Back Parking Lot of Zolt's Babes
"Ugh, I'm so gonna die tonight." Asami mumbled, parking her moped behind the concrete building that had been transformed into Zolt's Babes about 10 years ago. Parking her moped next to the only street lamp in the back parking lot, she could feel the two pots of caffeine coursing through her veins. Her skin was as heavy as lead and a part of her felt like she could do any task that was given to her, but on the other hand, there was a dark corner in her mind that told her to head straight to the nearest elevated flat surface and fucking sleep.
Asami gave her head a quick shake, dispersing any muckiness that had settled. Other dancers had begun to enter the parking lot, opting to stay in their cars for a few more minutes of peace until they'd be subjected to unwanted advances by cheap customers that felt like they were entitled to their bodies because they paid to watch them strip. T'was the life one worked.
Sighing to herself, she sat against her moped, digging her personal phone out of her handbag. She flipped it open, scrolling through the contacts until she reached "Beifong's Diner". Hitting the call option, she placed the phone against her ear as it started ringing. "Sorry Jinora …" She mumbled, her breath coming out as a small white cloud.
"Lin could you get that, please!" Jinora called on the opposite end of the diner, refilling some coffee mugs for seasoned truckers that were taking a pit stop on their trek across the country.
"Got it kid," Lin Beifong, owner and head cook of Beifong's 24 Hour Diner, said as she wiped her hands against her apron. "Hello, this is Beifong's." She picked up after the third ring, moving the phone to her neck as to not get it any dirtier with burger grease.
"Lin! Oh thank god, you're working tonight." Asami gave a sigh of relief on the other end.
Lin smiled, leaning against the doorway that separated the diner from the kitchen. "Hey, what's happening kid?" The old cook watched Jinora mingle with the only customers in the diner at the moment. She was polite and considerate, actually joining them in their booth as one of them told their elaborate tale about traveling all over the Earth Kingdom – a classic, one Lin had heard many times already. "Are you gonna be a little late tonight?"
"Ya," Asami said bashfully, "I had requested the night off to catch up on some sleep, but it turns out the owner is going to stop by and he kind of asked for me by name so …" She explained, letting her sentence die out, hoping her first boss would get the picture.
Lin nodded to herself, switching the wall phone over to her other ear when her neck started hurting. "It's okay, I understand, champ. You just worrying about hustling those suckers out of their next rent and I'll let Jinora know, alright?" Said waitress excused herself to let them finish their meal in peace.
"Thanks Lin! You're the best!"
"Anytime, kid." They exchanged goodbyes. Lin hung up the phone just as Jinora walked behind the counter to start a fresh pot of coffee for them.
"Lemme guess," She smiled, walking over to the seasoned cook while placing a finger to her chin in mock thought, "Asami's going to be a little late tonight?" Jinora asked, not at all bothered by the fact.
Lin crossed her arms and nodded, "I guess it's time to start placing bets on how late she's gonna be."
Jinora smiled, producing her waitress pad out of her back pocket and flipping it to the backside. It was almost fully written on with the past times Asami's been late to relieve Jinora. Not that the younger waitress minded: she got the shittiest shift at Beifong's, the first graveyard shift from 9 PM to 1 AM. She thought it was all good experience and was open to working an extra hour, if Asami couldn't make it on time. "Well, her latest time has been … 1:39 PM." Jinora looked up, a sparkle in her eye.
Lin chuckled, "Sato mentioned that the owner was going to stop by and he asked for her by name, so I'm guessing she's going to come an hour later than usual. Around 2-ish." Jinora nodded, writing down Lin's guess.
"Okay, well then I bet that Asami's going to come around 1:10-ish, since she hasn't been coming in that late lately." She said, writing down her bet next to Lin's.
Lin smirked, "Well, we'll see about that, I've known Sato since she was in braces." The older cook extended her hand for a shake, "20 bucks like last time?"
Jinora looked determined and gripped her boss's hand in a firm handshake, "Let's ante up the stakes and make it 25 bucks, I feel like buying a new scarf." Lin laughed as she returned to her post on the grill.
"Why you little – Has Sato been teaching you some new hustling tricks? I'm gonna have to have a word with her …" She said, narrowing her eyes at Jinora through the window where fresh food was placed, ready to be delivered to its table.
Jinora looked smug as she poured herself a cup of coffee with three sugars, "I have no idea what you're talking about." She sipped her mug as Lin shook her head in amusement and prepared to clean off the fifth that had accumulated on her grills.
After the truckers had left the diner (and left Jinora a generous tip, bless their souls) Jinora whipped out her phone from her back pocket, seeing how it was going to be a slow night. 'If Asami's coming in late again, we're going to miss the last metro.' She thought while scrolling through her contacts. After finding who she was looking for, she sent them a message.
"Hey Korra," She typed out, "The waitress for the next shift is going to be late so we're going to miss the metro. Is there any way you can pick us up?" She hit send, pocketing her cell phone until she received a reply. 'And now, I wait.' In the meantime, she figured the floor could use a good mopping.
Around 10 minutes later, as she was flipping through TV channels in the break room with Lin, a ringer went off. Someone was calling her. The cook sent her a curious look as Jinora passed her the remote and pulled out her cell – Korra. "Hey, I have to take this," She explained while exiting the break room and making a left towards the back door.
"Hello?" She picked up after the fourth ring, leaning against the wall next to the staff entrance.
"Hey JJ, I just got your message." Korra greeted, slightly out of breath, "Ya know the car is in the shop, right?"
"Hey Korra and ya I remembered." Before Korra could say anything, Jinora added, 'Are you okay? You sound winded …" She kicked an empty soda can towards the curb. It bounced off and tumbled around in the dark, outside of the area that the backlight illuminated. A vehicle passed by.
Korra gave a dry laugh, "Ya, I'm alright. Just did a late night run. So, going back to the car situation …" She let her sentence hang in the air, hoping Jinora would catch her drift.
Jinora smiled, kicking a couple of rocks in the same direction as the empty soda can. One made contact with it, filling the night with a metallic thud. "Hm, well it's been a while. Let's hope you aren't getting rusty Korra ..." Before Korra could defend herself, Jinora heard the front door chime and Lin's greeting. "Hey I got to go. Just …do your thing!" She pocketed her phone and slipped back into the diner.
11:07 PM: Zolt's Babes
"So glad you could make it!" Tahno shouted over the club music as he shook hands with his superior. Zolt gave Tahno a firm pat on the shoulder as he looked around. The place was a lot cleaner than the previous manager had kept it – figures, since he had been stealing money from the budget. The bar was renovated and extended to fit entirely along the right wall of the club. New booths and seats had replaced the ones he had initially bought when he opened up this place 10 years ago. Zolt even noticed the speakers and light systems around the club had been replaced with something a little more modern – the lights had a lot more pop to them and the music no longer had that scratchiness he noticed the last time he stopped by about a month ago
A little over a year and a half ago, Tahno had been promoted to the position of Head Manager – Zolt was eager to see what the spunky kid who had come into his restaurant 10 years ago offering his service to Zolt in order to pay off a debt that wasn't entirely his, could do with his favorite strip club when tough times and new laws struck down, dropping sales like young artists' new mixtapes. Zolt smiled, proud of himself for choosing Tahno to manage one of his favorite places.
He gave Tahno a nod of approval. "I like what you've done with the place." He patted Tahno's cheek, "Good job kid. I taught you well."
Tahno had the modesty to act humbled as he gestured to his right. "Why thank you, but please. Your lounge is waiting." He led Zolt and three of his bodyguards towards the backstage entrance, where a set of stairs leading up to the second floor and into Zolt's personal VIP Lounge awaited. As they passed through the main floor, Zolt even noticed that there were a lot more hot asses than he remembered from his last visit. He made a mental note to come by more often, seeing how Tahno seemed to have brought this place back from its brink of financial death.
"Your paradise, sir." Tahno gestured, pushing open two doors to the closed off balcony that was Zolt's private VIP Lounge. While it ensured privacy and not noticeable by anyone on the main floor (the bright lights from the ceiling prevented anyone from noticing who was up there at any given time) it had a wondrous view of the entire club.
Adorned with comfortable seating in a huge C formation around one low table, Zolt felt like he was walking into heaven. Not just because of the seating arrangement: four of the strip club's most beautiful and experienced dancers were draped over the seating, leering at Zolt and his bodyguards with seductive gazes. And the cherry on top? The variety of substances spread out over the huge low table: his favorite brand of cigars, at least an ounce of marijuana with several ways to consume it (several pipes, one medium sized bong, several pre-rolled joints, a couple of edibles,) and other substances and devices that were familiar to the old mobster.
Zolt turned to Tahno, nodding to himself in approval before gesturing to Tahno to bring it in. The head manager was a little surprised by the force which Zolt hugged him with, but he returned the gesture known the less. The strippers sitting comfortably on Zolt's couches "aww"-ed at what looked to be a father and son moment.
"You're like the son I never had, ya kno' that?" Zolt whispered, patting Tahno hard on the back before releasing him. Zolt placed both hands on Tahno's jaw and just stared at him. For a moment, Tahno had the passing thought that Zolt might – "Ya kno', you didn't have to go out of your way with the drugs and everything. But ya did and I appreciate that." Zolt patted Tahno's cheek, "Your actions will be rewarded. Consider 75% of your debt officially paid off." He added quietly, patting Tahno's cheek one last time before turning to the ladies that awaited him and his men.
Tahno stayed put, stunned by Zolt's last sentence. 'I'm nearly finished …'
"Tahno." Zolt called, already comfortably situated between two dancers, Miss Sato and Ginger. "Send up your strongest booze every ten minutes, please." He waved Tahno goodbye.
Tahno nodded, gesturing to the walkie-talkie that was on the edge of the table, "Radio in if you need me then." He left the vicinity, closing the doors to the VIP Lounge on his way out to ensure their privacy.
Once alone, Tahno walked back to his office in a daze. '75% … after 10 years, I'm almost there.'
"Come on," Zolt groaned, pressing open mouthed kisses along Miss Sato's neck, "You don't have to go."
Miss Sato laughed, pushing against Zolt's shoulder as he tried to move even closer. "Come on sweetie," She cooed. "I'm gonna go dance for you and then I'll come back. I promise."
Zolt grunted, not swayed by her words as he curled his arm around her waist protectively. His stubble scratched her skin as he moved from her neck to her collarbones. She shot Ginger, who was sitting on Zolt's left, a look before checking out the time that hung over the entrance to Zolt's VIP Lounge: 11:44 PM. Tahno had signed her up for the last solo performance at midnight and she needed to start getting ready but –
"Hey babe," Ginger cooed, grabbing Zolt by his left arm and tugging him towards her. She succeed in pulling him off her momentarily, "How about I give you a topless dance again while Miss Sato goes and gets ready, hm?" She whispered, pulling Zolt away little by little until Miss Sato could slip out.
Zolt pouted – the owner of Babes, hottest strip club on the West Side of Republic City, was drunk and a little baked. After drinking a few glasses of Fire Brand liquor, hitting a couple of bowls, and shooting up things mixed with other things that didn't look safe, his cocky personality had transformed to that of a clingy, pouty, and horny adult. He reluctantly let go of Miss Sato's waist and fell into Ginger's open arms. Though before Miss Sato could leave, he grabbed her wrist and used his other hand to ruffle through the inside of his suit jacket. "Here," He passed her a wad of bills, "Don't forget to come back."
Miss Sato took the bills with a smile and slipped out of the VIP Lounge before he could change his mind. 'That man is fucked up …Sorry Ginger.' she thought, taking the stairs two at a time to get to the locker room quickly. Having a tight hold on the wad of bills as to not drop it, she swung a hard left at the bottom of the stairs – and collided into someone.
"Umph – Shit, I'm sorry," She apologized before side stepping away from the employee and continuing to her destination as if the collision never happened. (Tarrlok's eyes widened at who he bumped into, and before he could speak or apologize, she was gone.)
Other employees were lingering around, either on their cell phones or touching up their make-up in the break room. Neither of them paid her any mind as she turned right towards the lockers. 'Black for sure, but what shoes?' She debated, unlocking 6A and placing the wad that Zolt gave her in the top compartment where she'd count them later. Quickly stripping out of her red go-go shorts with a matching cut off top, she pulled out her signature black number that was a favorite amongst the crowd.
As she slipped into black lacy underwear, the door to the locker room opened. "Any of you girls seen Sato?" Someone asked.
"I'm here!" She called, shrugging on the matching bra and adjusting the hooks in the front.
Hasook, one the older managers and Tahno's personal secretary shouted, "Six just went on, you're on in ten but be ready in five!" The locker room door shut behind him on his way out. Miss Sato could pick up some whispering from the break room, but she had more important things to focus on.
Sitting on bench in front of her locker, she removed her cherry red pumps while looking at her small collection of shoes. 'Matte or glossy …?' She debated, going over the fashionable pros and cons quickly – in the end, she settled for glossy, seeing how it matched with the tiny sequins that adorned her bra. Opening up her make-up bag, she quickly touched up her lips and eyeshadow and applied foundation to the areas where Zolt had left tiny hickies, 'Thank god he's not a regular.' She mused, applying more foundation to a particular big one near the base of her neck.
The locker room door opened, in walking several other dancers that were done with their solos – they paid her no mind and Miss Sato did the same. Just as she smacked her lips, making sure her lipstick was evenly applied, did the door open again, "Sato are you ready?! Six just finished." Hasook shouted, his deep voice standing out over the idle locker room chatter.
"Be right there," She shouted back, organizing her things before locking her locker. Walking out, she flipped her hair back and forth to give it that naturally voluminous look that the crowd loved.
The door had just shut behind her before one women, topless in front of her locker, spoke up. "Fucking bitch. Flipping her hair and strutting her stuff like she's the –"
"Don't talk about Miss Sato like that." A younger lady defended, taking out her contacts and replacing them with her wire framed glasses before shooting a glare at the topless women.
The women stood speechless, glaring at the younger dancer in return. "Oh yah, what are you going to do about it, four eyes?" She said, taking cheap shots like a high school bully while putting on a bra. Other dancers in the vicinity tried not to appear too obvious in their eavesdropping.
The lady in glasses turned back to her locker, taking out a pair of pants and her sweater. "Nothing, but what good will it do if you complain and bitch all night?" She slipped on her pants, looping a belt through the belt loops, "From what I've heard, Miss Sato's been working her ass off from the moment she started working here." She slipped on her sweater. After taking out her purse and a pair of sneaker, she slammed her locker shut with enough force to startle anyone that was secretly listening. "Meanwhile, I've been working here for three months and the only thing I've heard about you is that you're a jealous, sore loser with a quick temper and a stick up her ass." (An eavesdropper towards the back of the locker room flushed in embarrassment as she quickly made her way to the restrooms on the opposite side of the locker room.)
The women shook with rage, her face visibly turning pink as the lady tied up her shoe laces. "Why you little fucking four-eyed freak –"
"My point exactly." The lady said, fixing her wire framed glasses on her way out. The locker room fell into a hushed silence as the door slammed behind her. The women flushed red with anger and embarrassment as the rest of the ladies in the locker room avoided looking in her direction. All was quiet up until the moment someone asked, "Who was that anyway?"
Whispers began to spread, "I think her name is Lee."
[Sunday, July 5th]
12:00 AM: Zolt's Babes
"Don't forget folks, drinks are 50% off at the bar right now! Take advantage of the fact that you can get shitfaced for half the price you normally do." The DJ spoke, his voice overlapping the club's music momentarily to increase sales during solo performances.
From his perch on the second floor, he dropped his headphones to his neck and leaned over his DJ station to peer out the windows that protected him from falling. Despite having a bar that extended the entire length of the south wall and five bartenders spread out to keep the cash flowing, a small crowd of drunk individuals were demanding booze faster than the bartenders could serve it. The DJ laughed, clutching his stomach – he loved watching how quickly the mob over ran the bar every night. It reminded him how safe he was in his little DJ box.
Wiping stray tears from his eyes as he caught his breath, he noticed the house lights dimming and a single spot light on the main stage – his cue. "Oh shit." He muttered, putting on his headphones and slowly fading out the house music. He noticed the anticipation running through the crowd as he spoke into his microphone: "Ladies and gentlemen! The last performance of the night – the one you have all been waiting for!" He fiddled around on his laptop, starting Miss Sato's mix to slowly fade in, just as she requested. "Introducing …the one, the only … Miss Sato!" He turned up the volume to the remix of "Here" by Alessia Cara just as Miss Sato herself stepped on stage.
The crowd fucking lost it.
"That's my girl," He muttered, smiling to himself as he focused on hitting his musical cues in time with the house lights that Ping and some new guy were in charge of.
"Well, what did you think?" Tahno asked, approaching Zolt and Ginger as they leaned against the railing of the balcony to watch Miss Sato finish her solo. The crowd was going wild for her as she flipped her hair one last time before slipping back stage.
"Woah." Zolt said, a lot more sober than he had been before Miss Sato's performance. "Tahno. That was crazy hot. Smoking hot!" Ginger agreed, hooking her arm through Zolt's as Tahno joined the pair against the railings.
"She's probably the best dancer of the night." Tahno confessed, watching as the lights dimmed out around the main stage and the cleaning crew moved in. He watched Tarrlok emerge from center stage to help speed the process along. Tahno smiled to himself, he had made a good decision in hiring him; they needed more hard workers that were willing to learn, regardless if they worked in the back of a strip club.
"Well I'll say." Zolt said, standing up to his full height, his joints popping along the way. "Hey doll, could you give us men some privacy?" He asked Ginger, slipping a wad of bills, like the ones he had given Miss Sato, into the waistband of her go-go shorts. Ginger gave Zolt a kiss on his cheek before going over to the couches where Zolt's bodyguards were. Once she was out of ear shot, Zolt turned to Tahno, completely sober. "Give it to me straight kid. How much is all this costing me? The renovations, the imported alcohol, everything. No bullshit."
Tahno licked his lips in thought. "Perhaps we should take this conversation to my office then."
"Alright kid," Zolt started, slamming shut Tahno's door behind him, "How much?"
Tahno walked over to his desk, producing a record book from one of his drawers. "Have a seat," he gestured to the two chairs in front of his desk as he got comfortable in his own chair. Zolt mumbled something about stalling before sitting.
"So?" He said, an eyebrow raised in frustration. "Come on kid. Give it to me straight –"
Tahno silently slide over the record book, flipping it over to a specific page that held the renovation costs. Zolt frowned as Tahno gestured down towards the book, "Not a thing."
Zolt's frown deepened, adding more lines to his forehead, "Don't fuck with me, Tahno. Don't go disrespecting me like that –"
Tahno gestured to the record book again. Leaning back in his office chair, he smugly crossed his arms over his chest, "Have a look for yourself then." He patiently waited, making a big show of inspecting his fingernails.
Zolt narrowed his eyes before taking a closer look at the record book. Minutes passed by in silence as Zolt's eyes scanned every column and row once, twice, and three times. He looked up, all traces of frustration gone and replaced with confusion. "How? The numbers say that I don't owe a thing …" Zolt looked back at the book one last time to make sure he hadn't over looked or miscalculated anything. It all checked out again – Zolt wasn't paying a cent.
"Nah," Zolt shook his head, laughing at how fucked up and fake this all seemed. "Nah man, this is a fucking joke." He smack the record book down on Tahno's desk, who didn't even flinch as he popped his feet up on his desk. "What kind of game is this, Tahno? You doing some back door dealing that I don't know about, huh? In my own fucking club?" Zolt slammed his fist down against the desk, face flushed and nostrils flared, "Fucking answer me, you pathetic piece of shit!"
Tahno had the balls to chuckle, stretching his arms over his head as the veins in Zolt's neck threatened to burst. "No games. Just business." And as if someone flipped a switch, his demeanor changed –
Tahno removed his feet from his desk. Leaning forward, he looked at Zolt square in the eye. His superior matched his gaze, still enraged at whatever Tahno was tiptoeing about. "I swear on my life," Tahno started, completely serious as he spoke, "that I'm doing nothing behind your back." He gestured to the record book on his desk, "All the money for the club's renovations, completely legit."
Zolt nostrils flared, "So where the fuck did the money come from? The budget I arranged doesn't have enough for all that." Zolt said, gesturing over his shoulder towards the strip club on the other side of Tahno's office door. Before the kid that he gave a second chance could continue, Zolt held up his hand. "Tahno." He said, closing his eyes in disappoint as something dawned on him, "You aren't dealing with private investors, are you? Or gambling my fucking money –"
"— It's all out of pocket." Tahno said, interrupting his superior before he could go off again.
Zolt opened his eyes and frowned in confusion. "Come again?" Had he heard that right –
"I've been paying out of pocket for all the club's renovations. Everything I've saved up from the moment I started working for you, I'm investing in the future of this club." Tahno said seriously, his gaze steady.
Zolt blinked. He didn't detect an ounce of dishonestly coming from his head manager. Attempting to stall, Zolt picked up the record book he had slammed onto Tahno's desk and flipped it open to the renovation's page. He looked over the rows and columns again, his anger slowly ebbing away as he roughly calculated everything a second and third time. He kept in mind that when the numbers added up to zero, that meant that Tahno had (secretly) taken care of it – "This isn't the official book." Zolt realized, "This is the one you'd show to those who are getting suspicious, because it looks like everything is paid off in advance by me, which it isn't." Zolt closed the book and placed it on Tahno's desk with a small smile. "I've taught you well kid. You even had me fooled for a little bit there."
Asami tucked her green shirt into her faded black jeans, before quickly looping a belt through her belt loops. Taking out a pair of brown ankle high boots from her locker, she slipped them on as enjoyed the rare silence of the locker room while everyone else was working the last portion of the 3rd shift, which ended at 1 AM. Locker room silence was a rare thing, since someone was always chilling in here – and when one found the locker room silent, you fucking cherished it.
Humming a nameless tune to herself, she made sure both shoe laces were tightened before standing up to organize her locker. She noticed the wad of bills Zolt had tipped her earlier sitting on the top compartment. As she made a move to grab them she noted that it looked a lot thicker than she remembered – it even felt a lot thicker as she held it in her hand. Undoing the blue rubber band, she counted out 210 ¥.
Asami felt breathless as she counted again, just to make sure. 230 ¥ – she had counted wrong the first time. Taking a deep breath to calm her nerves, she wrapped the bills back and quickly hid them in the backpack she always brought that held her change of clothes. (She was well aware of the reputation she had here and it was no use in giving them more to talk about if she was seen with a huge tip by the wealthy owner of this club.)
Taking the money she had just earned throughout the night and while on stage – 250 ¥, but most of that would be going to Tahno, the head manager, for club expenses – she shut and locked her locker before making her way towards Tahno's office on the second floor. There were hardly any employees back stage, most of them taking their well needed break before the 4th and final shift of the night, which ended at 4 AM (but employees stayed till 5 AM to clean up.)
On her way up the stairs, she counted out the amount she'd have to hand over to Tahno: 30 ¥ for the house fee, 15 ¥ fee for participating in the solo performances, 5 ¥ each for every time she used the pole (around 4 times before Zolt showed up) making that 20 ¥ – it was no use trying to down play the amount of times you gave a dance or used the poles, managers were always walking around taking tallies – 5 ¥ for the DJ, 2 ¥ for every bartender so really 10 ¥, 5 ¥ for security, and finally 10 ¥ for renting out a locker (it was a monthly fee which she forgot to pay earlier.) Asami set aside 95 ¥ out of her total 480 ¥, meaning she walked home with 385 ¥. A little low for her typical Saturday night/Sunday morning, but this was considering that she had been called into work on such short notice –
Taking the remaining stairs two at a time, Asami hurried up to Tahno's office, ignoring Zolt's bodyguards that were lingering around. 'So the big boss is still here.' She knocked twice before being allowed to enter. Tahno was lounging in his chair, a cigarette in his mouth and his feet on his desk and Zolt was seating in one of the chairs in front of Tahno's desk. They had been talking aimlessly before she knocked.
Tahno sent his niece a wave as Zolt glanced over his shoulder too see who it was. The mobster sent her a luring smile as she approached. "Hey there gorgeous. I really enjoyed that dance number – a real crowd pleaser, aren't ya'?" He said, taking a long drag out of his cigar as he winked.
Asami easily switched into her Miss Sato persona. Lightly hitting Zolt's shoulder, she smiled and returned his wink, "What can I say? I aim to please ..." She said, before leaning over Zolt's chair to give Tahno his money, her torso flush against the back of Zolt's head. Zolt smirked at her boldness and before he could come up with something flirty to say, Asami/Miss Sato leaned away. Her uncle dramatically rolled his eyes at how easily Zolt fell into the palm of her hand. "See ya around." Asami/Miss Sato said, giving Zolt a quick peck on the cheek before leaving the office.
Tahno had to pretend to cough into his sleeve so Zolt wouldn't notice his weak attempt to conceal his laughter. The mobster's cheeks hurt as a huge grin spread across his face, "Now that's a women."
12:45 AM: Back Parking Lot of Zolt's Babes
Tarrlok leaned against his vehicle, blue eyes trained on the back door of Zolt's Babes. Tahno had initially said he was to clock out at 1 AM, but around an hour ago, the head manager had approached him and informed him that he could leave 30 minutes earlier, for "having a productive first day on the job." Seemed like Tarrlok wasn't the only one who kept tabs on people.
He had made a move to glance at his wrist watch when the back door creaked open – out walking Miss Sato in a tight green t-shirt and black faded jeans with a leather jacket draped over her arms. Tarrlok smiled to himself, preparing his charm as he pushed off his vehicle and walked over to her.
Miss Sato noticed him and stopped walking to let him approach her. Tarrlok noticed that her green eyes were guarded and her body tense as she crossed her arms over her amble chest. 'No need to act so tense,' He thought, flashing Miss Sato a smile. "Hey there." He greeted, adding a wave for good measure as he stopped short a few feet from her.
Miss Sato shifted her weight from one foot to the other and gave Tarrlok a forced smile – not at all like the seductress who he had witnessed flirting all night with male and female patrons that had showed her even the slightest interest. Tarrlok smiled again – charm was what won everyone over eventually.
"Sorry," he said, "This might seem a bit creepy, me coming up to you in the middle of the night, in a parking lot, no less." He admitted, pretending to be bashful. Miss Sato said nothing, waiting for Tarrlok to continue. He noticed that her gaze was still guarded and her body still tense. "I just wanted to introduce myself, since I just started working here today and I couldn't help but notice you – I'm Tarrlok." He held out his hand, hoping that he had somehow smoothed over her first impression of him.
Miss Sato shook his hand firmly and remained quiet, not offering her name in return. "Does a pretty girl like you have a name?" Tarrlok pressed, taking a small step closer. Miss Sato came up to his chin, her green eyes a vibrant emerald under the dull light of the street lamp.
She gave him a smile that didn't meet her eyes. "Look," she said, sounding tired, "It was very nice of you to introduce yourself to me, but I'm in a bit of a hurry –"
"What's the rush?" Tarrlok pressed, misreading her smile as an invitation to touch – he reached forward, intending to pull her closer by the waist, but she stepped back quickly. For a second, Tarrlok's smile dropped, before he caught his slip up. "I'd just like to get to know you. Maybe over a nice dinner and some wine –"
"I'm already with someone." She replied, her voice firm and her gaze steel.
Tarrlok chuckled, taking another small step forward. "I'm sure they won't mind you getting together with a new co-worker for some drinks then–"
"Look," She started, taking another step back to counter Tarrlok's bold step forward. Her eyes glanced to the back door of Zolt's Babes, hoping someone would walk out any minute now, "You seem like a nice guy, but I'm not –"
"I can show you how nice of a guy I can really be." Tarrlok said, taking another step forward. The light from the street lamp casted a shadow over his face, morphing his once charming smile into a sinister gleam. Miss Sato paused, momentarily shocked at the quick change in façade – and reacted on instinct when he grabbed her waist and pulled her flush against his chest.
Her fist struck something hard and there was a loud cracking noise. Tarrlok stumbled back, tripping over the uneven pavement of the parking lot and falling flat on his ass. Miss Sato barely registered blood gusting out of his nose as she sprinted towards her moped, hastily throwing on her biker jacket before Tarrlok could collect himself. Jamming her key into the ignition, she glanced back to make sure Tarrlok was still in a daze from her self-defense maneuver –
His fingers followed the trail of blood that was slowly staining his clothes – white hot pain erupted from his nose and spread behind his eyes when his fingertips brushed the bridge of his nose. Miss Sato …she had –
"You …you broke my nose, you bitch!" He shouted into the night but Miss Sato was long gone.
12:54 AM: Republic City
Korra stuffed her hands into the pockets of her dress pants as she headed out of Central City Station. 'I need a ride.' She thought, stepping into the shadow of the statue of Fire Lord Zuko, one of the founders of Republic City. She looked around, thinking about what restaurants with valet services were close by. Not that she specifically needed a place that offered valet parking, but it was easier to hit up in her fancy getup – 'That new place, the White Falls, is a couple of blocks away.' Korra realized, already walking down an illuminated sidewalk.
She whistled to herself, enjoying the night time chill and the way it brushed past her. Every once in a while would a vehicle pass, paying no mind to the person that was dressed up in a navy blue three-piece suit in the middle of the night. Korra was glad that she hadn't changed into something more comfortable when given the chance earlier – her attire for tonight would help her in securing a temporary vehicle.
A couple of minutes later, Republic City's latest 5-star restaurant, The White Falls, came into view. It had opened up a few weeks ago, boasting to Republic City's highest class about "exquisite late night dinning, but even later!" (Korra had made a face when she first heard the ad on Jinora's radio.)
Glancing over her shoulder to make sure no one was watching, Korra quietly turned into the alley where the backside of the White Falls was located. She peaked into the few dumpsters that she passed – they were mostly empty, meaning someone was bound to throw away the trash soon enough. Korra smiled to herself, 'Right on time.' Appearing as nonchalant as she could, she leaned against the back wall of the restaurant near the kitchen's entrance/exit and waited.
She produced a cigarette and a lighter from her suit pocket to help combat the chill that had slipped underneath her layers. Soon enough, after a couple of minutes of patiently waiting and halfway through her cigarette, the door was shoved open by a bus boy lugging two huge trash bags towards the dumpsters. Cursing under his breath about his shitty job, he paid Korra no mind as she crushed her cigarette against the heel of her fancy shoes.
Slipping into the kitchen before the door could close, she kept her head down as she walked past chefs and assistants who were shouting at each other over hot stoves. She made sure not to get in any one's way and no one complained about a patron wandering around the kitchen.
After taking a couple of lefts and rights around the kitchen, she followed a waiter as he carried a set of entrées over his shoulder and out the swinging kitchen doors. Nodding to the few staff members that noticed her exit from the kitchen, Korra straightened up and walked with confidence, unlike the meek manner she had used whilst in the kitchen. Walking over to the entrance of the White Falls, she plucked a random set of car keys from the valet box when no one was looking.
A young man in a dark blue vest with "White Falls Valet" sewed to the back, sat hunched against his stool in boredom. He swirled left and right in his chair before glancing up to see Korra, patiently waiting. His cheeks flushed pink in embarrassment when Korra smiled and handed him the keys she had "borrowed."
"I'll bring your v-vehicle around right away, ma'am!" He stuttered before all but bolting to the nice black sports car that had responded to the unlock mechanism.
Korra gave a small chuckle and produced a couple of bills out of her suit pocket as she waited for the young man to bring the car around. When an engine roared to life, she mentally congratulated herself on plucking out the set of keys that belong to what seemed to be the most expensive car in the parking lot as a Fire Nation imported sports vehicle drove up.
After he returned, Korra slipped the young man in charge of valet parking 200 ¥. His eyes nearly bugged out of his sockets and Korra felt sick when she realized that the wealthy patrons who frequented this restaurant probably didn't tip more than the minimum 15%.
"Have a nice night," She waved, slipping into her temporary sports car.
"Well, would you look at that …" A man in a black suit muttered, watching as Korra walked right into his line of sight and plucked a random set of keys from the valet box the moment a nearby waitress turned around. His light blue eyes watched from his table in the back of the restaurant as she exited the White Falls and handed over the keys she had stolen to the valet. Who would've thought –
Another man in a similar black suit walked over and took a seat opposite of the first man. He noticed the first man's line of sight and glanced over to the entrance where a women who looked slightly familiar stepped into a black sports car before driving away. He raised an eyebrow as the first man chuckled to himself, taking a sip of his water.
"What's so funny?" The second man asked, picking up his fork and knife to resume cutting his meat before his trip to the restroom.
The first man smiled, picking up his own fork and knife to continue eating as well, "You just missed our niece."
Eye-catch: The bell to the front door chimed. "Jinoraaa!" Meelo called out as he entered the empty diner followed by his older sister Ikki. "We gotta catch the last train or else we'll miss that late night TV show!" Meelo walked over to the counter, resting his head against his arms as he waited for Jinora to finish wiping down glassware.
"If we leave now, we'll get home just in time!" Ikki added, rearranging the scarf around her neck
Jinora smiled apologetically as she placed the last glass under the counter and disposed of the rag into the sink. Wiping her hands against her apron, she said, "Sorry guys, I gotta work late tonight."
Meelo visibly deflated and Ikki shoulders slumped. "I'm so sorry," Jinora added as her younger brother and sister trudged over to their favorite booth on the right side of the diner, "I know how badly you wanted to see tonight's episode, but Asami has to work late and there's no one to cover for her …" She explained, following her siblings.
Ikki and Meelo entered opposite sides of their booth, Jinora slipping into Meelo's side and draping an arm over his shoulder. "It's okay Jinora. Asami can't help it." He crossed his arms and rested his head against them. After a moment, he spoke again, some hope to his voice, "Plus, Katara and Naga will watch it and bring us up to speed on it!" Ikki nodded excitedly, agreeing with her younger brother. Not all hope was lost.
Jinora was about to comment about their optimism when her nose caught a whiff of something. "What's that – wait a minute, have you two been smoking again?" She asked firmly, removing her arm from Meelo's shoulders.
Meelo was suddenly very interested in the blinds that covered the window and Ikki had the modesty to look bashful, "Well in our defense, it got really cold really fast on our way over here, so …" Meelo nodded, coming to his sister's defense. He was ready to flash Jinora with his infamous puppy dog eyes, if it came to that.
Jinora sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose, "Fine … where are they?" She held her hand out, waiting for the carton to be given up by one of them. Ikki hesitantly removed the box of United Republic Spirits from her purse and slowly placed them against Jinora's open palm. Meelo tensed up, prepared to save their cigarettes if Jinora decided to be cruel and throw them away.
Instead, Jinora took one out and placed it against her lips, "Meelo, may I borrow your light?" she asked, returning the carton to Ikki. Her younger brother sighed in relief, easily giving up his yellow lighter. Jinora light the end of her cigarette, inhaling in puffs to get the flame to burn through the cherry quickly. She held the smoke in her lungs for a bit before slowly exhaling, watching as the smoke drifted upwards. "That hit the spot." Meelo and Ikki visibly relaxed: Meelo slumped against the table while Ikki leaned backed against her deep green seat.
"Hey, does one of you kids have a cigarette?" Lin asked from the doorway of the kitchen, wiping her hands against her apron, "Can I have a light?"
Ikki made a move as to go, but Jinora held up her hand. "I'll go and bring back the rest of the left over pie." Ikki handed Jinora one cigarette and Meelo handed over his lighter.
The door chimed again, in walking three officers in their night patrol uniform. Ikki looked up but paid them no mind. Meelo glanced over his shoulder before doing a double take. Ikki gave him a curious look, about to ask but Meelo pressed a finger against his own lips to silence her.
"Hello Lin." One of them waved as he moved towards the counter, the other two following his lead.
Lin nodded back, returning Meelo's lighter to Jinora, "Gentlemen. Officer Bumi, nice to see you again." She said, exhaling as she returned into the kitchen to start up the grill.
"What can I get you gentlemen," Jinora asked politely, getting rid of the ash that had accumulated at the end of her cigarette into the ash tray behind the counter. The three men made thinking sounds as they looked up at the menu above Lin's kitchen window.
"I'll take a breakfast special, over easy eggs, two bacon strips, with a black coffee please." Officer Bumi answered first. The other two officers ordered next, settling for different variations of the breakfast special.
"Didya get that Lin?" Jinora asked as she moved over to the coffee machine to prepare three black coffees.
"Got it kid." She called back - Jinora could hear the sizzle of the grill as she returned with three black coffees in "Beifong's 24Hr Diner" mugs.
"Here you go. Your breakfast specials will be right out shortly." She smiled politely before excusing herself to go over to the other end of the counter where the day old pie was kept. Carrying a plate of pie in one hand, three utensils in her back pocket, and a glass of milk in her other hand, Jinora made her way back to her siblings.
"Day old pie guys," She smiled with distributing the eating utensils and situating herself next to Ikki this time, "Enjoy!"
Not even touching his fork, Meelo glanced over his shoulder again. This time, Jinora gave him a curious look. Her younger brother motioned for her to come to his side of the table.
"What's wrong, Meelo?" She whispered, ducking her head as low as Meelo's. Ikki leaned in closer, curious as to what got her brother acting so fidgety when the police walked in.
"So earlier today, I was at the warehouse," he started, glancing over his shoulder at the cops sipping their coffee before continuing his story, "I was at the warehouse, sorting through things when I heard a patrol car pass by." Ikki's eyes widened, absent mindedly cutting off another piece of the day old pie. "I hide and the officers walked around for a while, like they were looking for something suspicious." Jinora narrowed her eyes, but didn't interrupt. "And before they got back in their vehicle –" One of the officers coughed, startling Meelo momentarily. The siblings glanced back one last time. "Before they got back in their vehicle, I heard them talking about increasing patrol and changing their routes. And that's all I could hear before they took off …" He looked back and forth between his older sisters, eyes wide in anticipation, as they thought.
"And you're sure that's what you heard?" Ikki asked for clarification. Meelo nodded, sure of his own ears.
Both siblings silently watched Jinora as she thought. After a few moments of silence, she came to her conclusion: "Meelo, you need to tell Korra this the next time you see her." She said seriously, her voice low as she glanced back at the officers. One of them was looking around the diner curiously. Meelo nodded, understanding the importance of his knowledge – it was game changing.
Jinora leaned in, her siblings leaning in closer. "And I want you both to be careful while on the streets. If the cops have a hunch about what's really going on, that can't be good."
1:07 AM: Beifong's 24Hr Diner
Asami pulled into the back parking lot of the diner, bringing her moped right next to Lin's battered up car. The drive over was enough to calm Asami's nerves, but she still felt uneasy about the whole encounter. Guys like Tarrlok never scared Asami – she took self-defense classes when she was a kid, she knew how to take them down. But Tarrlok gave her quite the scare when he had stepped under the light of the street lamp, his face morphing into something straight out of a nightmare –
A shiver ran up Asami's spine as she locked her moped up against the street lamp. Doing her best not to peer too closely into the shadows around the parking lot, she hurried and slipped inside the back entrance of Beifong's Diner. The heat of the kitchen hugged her as she entered – Lin was flipping a late night snack for herself as Asami swung a hard right to enter the employee locker room.
"Hey kid!" Lin shouted over the sizzling of the grill, "We didn't expect you till around 2-ish!" And even though the old cook sounded surprised, there was an underlying kindness to her words, "We're glad you could make it."
Asami felt at ease as she placed her things in her locker and pulled out her waitress apron - it was stained with grease spots that no matter how many times she washed or bleached it, it could never go back to the original white color it had been when Asami first started working at Beifong's around 5 years ago. She tied up her hair into a low ponytail as Jinora's voice drifted through the diner, "Asami's back already?!" The younger waitress entered the kitchen with a huge smirk on her face, "Pay up, Lin!"
Asami raised an eyebrow as she walked out of the employee locker room, tying her apron around her waist, "You'll made a bet on me?" She wasn't mad, but honestly surprised at the different ways her co-workers could come up with to entertain themselves – the last game they had played had been "Guess how much Asami made in tips that week."
"It's been going on for a while," Lin grumbled as Jinora flashed Asami the back of her waitress pad – tallies were counted for at the bottom while their guesses were divided into columns above it, the winner of each "round" had their times circled.
Asami laughed, reaching for Jinora's order pad – the younger waitress seemed to be in the lead, with Lin about five marks behind her. The two of them had around forty tallies combined – "Wait, how much is each wager?" Asami asked, returning Jinora's notepad.
Lin grumbled again, slipping a yuan note out of her pocket and handed it over to Jinora, "About 20 yuans." Jinora smiled to herself as she slipped past Asami to gather her things from the employee break room.
Asami smiled as she walked out of the kitchen to refill the police officers drinks – she would never say it, but she was touched that she was worth so much. She pulled out the fresh pot and walked over to the men that was silently enjoying what seemed to be Lin's famous breakfast special. The officers nodded their thanks as she refilled their mugs. As Asami returned the pot to the coffee marker, something outside caught her eye – a black sports car drove up to the front of the diner. The driver, who Asami couldn't see due to the diner's tinted windows and the tint of the sports car, honked twice.
"Yo Jinora," Asami called, realizing that the black sports car was an imported Fire Nation vehicle, aka, very expensive. "There's a sweet ass ride waiting for you." Jinora emerged from the kitchen while shrugging her coat on. Meelo and Ikki exited their favorite booth to meet her halfway out of the door.
Jinora sent a wink over her shoulder and Asami was only mildly curious as to how Jinora met someone with such a nice ride (her inner Miss Sato couldn't deny that she wanted to meet them as well, but preferably in the Private Rooms at Zolt's Strip Club.) Ikki exited first, rushing over to the vehicle in excitement. Jinora exited next, opening the passenger door of the sports car to let her slip into the back seats. Asami strained her neck to get a look at the driver –
"Bye Asami!" Meelo called, sending his favorite waitress ("Don't tell Jinora!") a wave and a small wink before hopping into the back seats with Ikki. What little view she had of the driver was obscured by Jinora as she slipped into the passenger's seat and closed the door. The sports car's V8 engine roared to life as it took off – Asami would've lost sight of it in the night if it wasn't for the red taillights.
'Such a beautiful car …' Asami mused as the officers finished up their meals. "Is there anything else I can get you all?" She asked, stacking their empty plates on top of the other to later dispose into the sink.
Officer Bumi, a regular at Beifong's, shook his head as he sipped his coffee, "Nothing yet. We're just going to relax here until our break is over in about …" He checked his wrist watch, "15 minutes."
Asami gave them an easy smile, "Alright then, you three enjoy yourself. When you're ready for the bill, I'll be in the back." She removed their stacked breakfast plates from the counter and carried them over to the sink in the kitchen. She spied Lin in the breakroom, eating the burger she made herself earlier. "Hey," Asami called, dumping the plates into the sink where she'd clean them later. "What are you watching?" She asked, wiping her hands against her waitress apron as she approached. A campaign commercial about re-electing President Raiko was on.
Lin wiped her mouth as she finished chewing, "Just some late night drama I found the other day," Asami glanced over to the cops sitting at the counter before joining Lin on the old couch. "From the couple of episodes I've been able to catch, it's about this young man who likes two different ladies at the same time." Asami nodded, snatching some of the fries Lin hadn't touched from her plate.
"Okay, so where's the drama part?" She asked, getting comfortable against the couch's arm rest as an ad for a boxing gym aired next. Lin stayed quiet as she finished up the last piece of her burger.
"The ladies are best friends." Lin said in between munches.
Asami nodded again, waiting for the rest of the drama's description but she could see where it was going –
Lin took a swig of her bottled water, "The ladies are best friends who have secret crushes on each other. So the whole point of the show is that everyone is completely clueless to everyone's feelings, except the young man's brother – he figures everything out after episode two." Asami's mouth dropped at the surprise description as Lin munched on a fry, "So far, the young man's brother is my favorite."
Asami relaxed into the couch as the show started up again. Ten minutes, two commercial breaks and a several plot twists later, Asami could easily see why Lin took an interest in this show – the set was horrid, the dramatic music even worse, but the plot was stable and the characters had depth to them. Not too shabby for a show that came out this late.
"Hey Lin," Asami asked, shifting in her seat when her side started aching, "who do you think Maiko is going to end –"
"CALLING ALL HIGHWAY PATROL UNITS," A radio from one of the police officers blared out, "We've got a 503, be on the lookout for a black Fire Nation sports car, with plates FN-R5-7D –" Officer Bumi lowered the volume of his radio and finished the rest of his coffee. His other officers did the same as Asami left the break room to ring them up.
"Well, you all relaxed while you could." She said, smiling. Officer Bumi grumbled something about never having a break and he slide over 20 ¥ – three breakfast specials only came out to 6.
"Keep the change." He said, the corner of his eyes crinkling, "Bye Lin!" He called out to the cook that was watching her drama in the back. He slipped out the front door with his other officers in tow. Three vehicles pulled out of Beifong's Diner, leaving Asami and Lin alone for the time being.
Asami walked over to the diner's radio and turned it on to 104.3. She cranked the volume down low as to not disturb Lin's drama show and set about cleaning the counter and the dishes she had discarded earlier. Once the dishes were cleaned, dried, and put away, she took two cups of coffee to the break room to relax with her boss.
'Hopefully I don't feel the effects of only sleeping 5 hours.' She mused, passing Lin her coffee and getting comfortable against the couch's arm chair again.
1:18 AM: East Side of Republic City
"Come on Korra!" Meelo pouted, "Tell us where you got this sweet ass ride!" He looked at Korra through the review mirror and gave her the best puppy dog eyes he could produce. If Korra hadn't known Meelo for as long as she had, she would've guess that the kid was 13, probably 14. He was actually 17 and had one of the most convincing faces she had ever seen.
Jinora rolled her eyes and Korra just laughed, pulling up next to an apartment complex that was over 10 stories tall. "You can try all you want Meelo, but you aren't getting a word out of me." She put the sports car into park and unlocked the doors, "Now, out you three! I've got something to do."
"Can we come with you?" Ikki pleaded, Meelo joining her in giving Korra some of the most cutest faces she had ever seen. The two of them jutted out their lip, summoning fake tears at will –
Korra probably would've caved if Jinora hadn't opened the door and stepped out, "Come you two. Katara has probably started dinner already." She pressed the lever that lowered the passenger seat and allowed Meelo and Ikki to exit from the back. The pair frowned, mumbling under their breath how their older sister wasn't any fun. Eventually, everyone except Korra exited the sports car.
Meelo waved as he and his siblings walked towards the front of the 10 story apartments, "See ya in a bit Korra!" Korra waved back and waited until they had stepped safely into the building.
"Alright," She said, flexing her fingers against the black leather of the steering wheel, "Let's see what you can do." She flicked on her bright lights and took off in the direction of the White Falls Restaurant.
1:21 AM: South Side of Republic City
"Fuck –" Tarrlok cursed, wincing as he gently wiped off dried blood from around his broken nose. He concentrated on breathing through his mouth while he leaned over his bathroom sink and gently dapped the area where –
"Fucking shit!" He angrily threw the wet towel he had been using into his blood stained sink. Hot pain erupted up his nose when he moved too fast. Gripping the sides of the porcelain sink so hard that his knuckles turned white, he stared at his reflection: his nose was off center, his nostrils were covered in dried blood, and the area around and under his eyes were starting to bruise. 'That fucking bitch.' Just thinking about her made Tarrlok's blood boil.
Looking away, he exited his bathroom and walked over to his cell phone that was placed on the night stand next to his desk. He flipped it open and scrolled through his recent calls. Finding who he was looking for, he brought the phone up to his ear and waited as it rung.
"What is it?" A deep voice on the other line answered. They sounded groggier than usual.
Tarrlok tried his best to scratch off flakes of dried blood that had stained his shirt, "So I got the job." He noticed that dried blood had seeped under his fingernails as he frowned in disgust.
The deep voice made an approving sound, "Good, very good." Tarrlok licked his chapped lips as his employer continued, "Just remember not to engage the target. We don't want her to know that we exist –"
Tarrlok hesitated, "Yes, about that …The employees that I befriended gave me some wrong information and I …" He cleared his throat to get rid of the nerves that were starting to come on.
"You what, Tarrlok?" His employer asked, a growl attached to the end of his name.
"I um …" Clearing his throat one last time, he gathered up all the courage he needed, and firmly said, "I approached the target in order to learn more about her." He sat down on the edge of his bed.
"And," His employer paused, taking a moment to control his anger. Tarrlok licked his lips again, he was well aware of the actions his consequences would have. Despite being momentarily hazed by lust, this would probably jeopardize everything. Tarrlok felt sick, his stomach dropping and a ball of regret forming in his throat – he should have lied. 'But …they would have found out. They always find out.' His employer spoke, his voice calm but Tarrlok knew otherwise, "And, how did she react?"
'I can still lie …' "She um …broke my nose, sir." Slight pain pulsed from his broken nose as he bit his bottom lip in anticipation. Honesty was rewarded, right?
His employer slowly inhaled and exhaled. They stayed silent for so long that Tarrlok actually checked his phone to see if they had hung up on him. Finally, his employer said, "You'll hear from us soon, Tarrlok."
His employer ended the call, leaving Tarrlok to wonder if they would also end his life so easily.
1:32 AM: Republic City
Korra wasn't stupid – she knew the police had probably already put out an all points bullet on a stolen, Fire Nation imported, black sports car. For this reason, she turned the headlights off and carefully drove through the outskirts, far away from where the police patrolled.
She kept an eye on the clock and mentally calculated how long had it been since she borrowed this random person's car. Around 20, going on 30 minutes. 'Shit, I'm cutting it real close.' She thought, looking around before turning into another barely lite street.
A lone patrol car turned into the street a couple of blocks ahead of her. "Shit, shit, shit." She mumbled, turning into an alley to hide. She cut off the ignition and watched. A moment later, the patrol car passed by – the police officer inside didn't even look into the alley where Korra and her stolen car were hiding. 'That was fucking close.' She thought, slumping in the driver's seat in relief, 'But why are the cops patrolling over here?' Before she could muse over this new discovery, her cell in her suit pocket started buzzing –
Fishing it out, she noticed that the call was from an unknown number. "Hello?" She answered, turning on the sports car once she deemed that the cops were gone and the coast was clear.
"I wasn't aware that the infamous Avatar was now in the auto theft business …" Someone on the other line said, a hint of amusement within their tone. "I'm not too sure if we can afford to bust you out of jail," Korra smiled as she drove out of the alley, waiting for – "if you get caught, of course." They finished.
Korra looked both ways before running the red light, "Woah," Korra switched her phone to the other ear, "You already heard about that? Word sure does move fast …"
"I have my ways …" They mused.
Korra rolled down a window, relaxing as the nighttime breeze of Republic City circulated inside the sports car. "Don't worry." She turned onto another empty street, "The situation called for a vehicle, but I'm actually returning it right now." She tapped her fingers against the steering wheel, urging the car to go just shy of 70mph on a 45mph street. Korra frowned as she said, "I have no further interest in doing this again."
The person on the other lined sighed, "That's a shame. If we had known about your car lifting abilities earlier, we would have put them to use sooner." Korra stayed quiet, mulling over what they had just said quietly. "You're a valuable asset to us, Korra, don't forget that." They reassured.
Korra laughed, slowing the car down to 40mph when she noticed the White Falls Restaurant coming up a few blocks away. A couple of police vehicles were parked out front and some officers were patrolling the parking lot. "Well that's good to know, thank you." She said, honestly a little touched as she turned into another alley. She drove until she reached a dead end, putting the vehicle into park and shutting off the ignition.
They softly laughed, "We'll be in touch, Korra. Good night."
Korra put her cell phone back in her suit pocket and stepped out of the stolen car.
She hummed to herself as she produced a cigarette from her pack and her lighter. She shut the driver's door and walked around to the front of the vehicle while taking a quick inhale. Popping the engine of the hood up, she removed her lite cigarette from her mouth and gave an approving whistle, "Damn, this is some horse power." She rolled her cigarette in between her fingers as she looked around.
"But it's such a shame," She frowned. Korra took a long drag from her cigarette, watching as the embers glowed bright red and slowly burned through. Holding the smoke in her mouth, she produced some folded up papers she had in her back pocket. They were of no importance to her.
Letting her cigarette drop to the floor, she crushed the back of her heel against it – grinding it into the cement so it wouldn't be examined for evidence when the cops came rushing to the scene in a couple of minutes. She whistled a tune her mother used to sing as she produced the lighter from her suit pocket again.
Holding the flickering flame up to the corners of the papers, she waited until the heat started licking at her fingers. Korra gave a dark smile before dropping the burning papers next to a section of important looking wires, "Oops."
She watched the flames grow, licking around the engine parts slowly. Korra decided that things weren't burning quick enough as she produced a magazine she had stuffed into her pants (the reason being that, if anyone, for any reason, came up to stab her, the knife would puncture the magazine first. She learned this after being in the wrong place at the wrong time a few years ago with a scar to show for it.)
She ripped out chunks of paper from Republic City's Digest. Using her little lighter to set them a flame, she dropped them into other parts of the engine. After a couple of pages, good size flames were beginning to grow. Korra threw the rest of the magazine on top of the engine and shut the hood. She could hear the flames crackling as she produced another magazine from the back of her pants (in case someone snuck up on her and stabbed her in the back.)
She tore out more papers, set them on fire, and stuffed the burning pages next to the tires. 'Cars don't explode like bombs – tires do.' She thought, repeating the words that were once said to her, years ago. She set about quickly lighting more papers, and stuffing them next to the tires.
Running around to the driver's door – she noted the flames that were starting to lick at the corners of the engine's hood – she light what was left of the magazine and threw it on the driver's chair. 'I give it about … 3 more minutes until the cops come and investigate.' She mused, walking out of the alley as the black sports car's alarm went off.
Korra had just gotten comfortable on a random building's fire escape (that was far enough not to be noticed, but close enough to see what was going to happen) when two police officers peaked into the alley that smoke was coming out of. She watched as one of them spoke into their radio, the other running into a store adjacent to the alley and producing a fire extinguisher moments after.
Two more RCPD vehicles arrived, parking further away just in case the fire couldn't be contained. The officer with the fire extinguisher rushed into the alley, another hot on his tail as she yelled something into her radio. Another officer, standing near the vehicles, spoke into their radio, and another cop car soon showed up. A civilian stepped out of the passenger side, and Korra put two and two together when they peeked into the alley, saw the car ablaze, and started sobbing – that was the owner of the very expensive car she had stolen.
Before Korra could do anything, a loud explosion came from the alley – debris from the blast came flying out and tumbled onto the street. The two officers that had ran in earlier with a fire extinguisher rushed back out, covered black with soot. A moment later, Korra could see more RCPD vehicles arrive on the scene – the Chief of Police had arrived as well.
"Time to jet." She said, taking the fire escape's stairs two at a time, before she jumped into a nearby alley and disappeared into the cover of darkness.
Eye-catch: "Hey kid," Lin called from the back as Asami cleaned some glasses, "The show's starting again!"
"Coming!" Asami shouted back, giving each glass a clumsy wipe down and placing them on the rack under the counter. Quietly wiping her hands down the front of her waitress apron, he hurried into the break room. While she had been cleaning, Asami turned on the radio to the favorite station –
"This is the Equalist, coming to you live from Central Republic City, on 104.3 The Revelation." Another song started playing, filling the diner with music instead of empty silence.
"Ladies and gents, I'm afraid I have to be the barer of bad news." The radio host, the Equalist, said softly, cutting off the next song. "My sources are telling me that something is brewing in the water. Something is amuck in the Yue Bay." She paused, gathering up her thoughts. "To all those involved, watch out honey. Or you'll never know what hit ya'."
4:02 AM: North Side of Republic City
"Bo," Mako grunted, throwing the covers over his head as their alarm clock blared to life on Bolin's night stand. Bolin (who was dead to the world, Mako, and their annoying alarm) continued to snore, his chest rising and falling in time with the mechanical beeping. Mako poked his head out from underneath his bedding, glaring at his sleeping sibling across their one bedroom apartment. "Bo." He shouted, his voice groggy with sleep.
Bolin's snore cut off as he mumbled, "… Mm …ko …"
Mako frowned as he kicked off his covers, "Get up, Bo." He grunted one last time before swinging his feet over the edge of his bed. Blinking his sleep away as best he could, he stretched, popping his shoulders, before trudging to their small bathroom.
"… Mmko, your ehh … brows …" Bolin mumbled in his sleep, his snoring continuing as he flipped over onto his stomach, his mattress springs groaning under his weight.
A couple of minutes later, Mako emerged from the bathroom, looking even more tired than he initially walked in. He rubbed his hand over his face as he shuffled over to his dresser, ignoring the alarm as it continued to do what it did best: annoy. Fumbling around in the dark, he pulled out some sweat pants and a pair of comfortable socks that were missing their heels. He patted around the top of his dresser until he found his beanie. With his pile of clothes in hand, he shuffled over to his bed and dumped them next to a sweater he had left somewhere near his feet last night. His mattress springs squeaked as he sat down on the edge.
Bolin continued snoring, his alarm just background noise as Mako got ready in the dark.
He was slipping on his shoes and tying up his laces when Bolin finally came too. His brother extended his arm towards his desk, patting around for the alarm that had interrupted his deep slumber. Mako smiled, turning to tie up his other shoe when there came a crash from Bolin's side of the bed.
"Bo?" Mako asked, noticing that he could hear the alarm but couldn't see the red numbers in the dark. He stayed still, listening.
Bolin groaned, "Makooo … I knocked the clock off." He sniffled in hopes that his older brother would come to his aid and help him get rid of the annoying sound.
"Tough luck, Bo." Mako said as he adjusted his beanie and grabbed a red scarf that was draped over the back of a chair. Adjusting it snuggly around his neck, he grabbed his keys and wallet on his way out, "Hey, I'm gonna go for my morning run. Be back in an hour."
Bolin pouted as Mako walked out of their bedroom, "Maaakkooo. The clock!" Bolin, still piled under all his blankets, pointed towards the blaring device that was literally inches from his grasp. It was mocking him as the alarm stopped momentarily before starting up again.
Mako laughed, "Bye Bolin." He shut the apartment door on his way out.
As Bolin made out the sound of keys locking the front door over his alarm clock, he dramatically sobbed, "How could you leave me brother?!"
'Almost …there …' He thought, pushing his body to sprint the remainder of his morning run.
As he passed his signature tree that he used to mark the beginning and end of every mile, he slowed to stop, eventually walking along the trail to cool down. Panting, he unwrapped his tattered red scarf from his neck, welcoming the breeze as it cooled down his hot skin. When that wasn't enough, he slipped off his beanie, amused by the shape his hair formed when he peered into a puddle to check out his reflection.
Placing his hands against his hips, he took his time walking towards a nearby bench, scarf and beanie in hand. Throwing himself against the cool metal, he let his body slump, his head falling back to look directly up at the morning sky. Still exhausted from his 5-mile morning run, he watched the white clouds his hot breath made with every huff and how they disappeared almost as quickly as they were created.
Finally catching his breath, Mako sat up straight, wincing slightly at the stiffness in his legs and lower back. Rewrapping his scarf and slipping his beanie back on, he lightly jogged towards the entrance of the park, stretching out his muscles that had begun to tense up due to the morning cold.
The entrance of the park was empty, with only a few vehicles here and there passing by this early in the morning. Mako loved it, totally captivated by the rare silence the city could offer just as the sun began to rise. He stuck his hands in his pocket as a brisk wind passed him by, sending a sudden chill through his heated body. Taking a right at the entrance of the park, he glanced at his wrist watch to note that he completed his warm-up route and his 5-mile run in under 40 minutes – a new personal best.
He chuckled, burrowing his hands back into his pocket as he eased into a slow walk home.
Readjusting his scarf as he crossed an empty street, his nose caught a whiff of something familiar. He paused on the corner of Main Street and 3rd, trying to decipher which direction the smell was coming from. Trusting his nose and his gut feeling, he began walking. He had just turned the corner to another empty street when he saw the neon blue waves with red text right above the doorway – The Southern Tribe Coffee Shop.
In a temporary daze, he approached until he was standing right in front of the little shop nestled tightly in between two buildings. It was homey and gave off this inviting feel to it, even from the outside. As the front door open and closed, exiting a young women with wire framed glasses carrying two cups of hot Joe, the scent of fresh coffee beans filled Mako's lungs.
It's like he was transported in time – waking up the smell of freshly brewed coffee his mother had prepared for her and his father before they both headed out to work in the nearby factories. Mako could practically see the way his father's eyes would crinkle and feel the way his mother's fingers would combed through his tousled hair when he and little Bolin would shuffle out of bed at the break of dawn to say goodbye.
Overcome with emotions, he took a shaky breath and stepped inside.
The warmth of the Southern Tribe practically hugged him the moment the door shut. It was comforting, being in the presence of something very dear to him. With a heavy heart, he walked up to the counter, where a young man in glasses and a green apron stood.
"Hey there!" He greeted, flashing an easy smile at Mako, "Welcome to the Southern Tribe, what can I get for you today on this gorgeous Sunday morning?"
Mako softly smiled in return, looking up at their menu to inspect their coffee options. Playing with the scarf around his neck, he shifted his weight from one foot to the other as he thought, 'Which brand did Ma always make again?' His amber eyes shifted over to a semi-familiar phrase, "I'll take two small House Brews, please." He said, fishing around his pants for his tattered up wallet. He and Bolin hadn't had coffee in a while.
"Alrighty, two small House Brews coming right up!" The male barista said, moving behind the counter as he prepared Mako's order. Mako took a seat nearest the counter and waited, playing with his father's scarf while he was lost in thought. He closed his eyes for a second, letting the smell of coffee drift him back to the time when he'd actually join his parents before their long day at work – "Here ya go, two hot and ready House Brews!" The male barista said, setting Mako's drinks on the counter before ringing him up.
'3 bucks for two small coffees,' Mako thought, pushing open the Southern Tribe's glass door with his shoulder, 'not too bad.' He paused once outside, bringing his coffee cup up to his lips for a quick sip – 'Just like ma's …' He reminisced, starting the short trek home.
"Hey Bolin," Mako called, quickly shutting the door behind him as to not let the morning chill in, "I'm back." He removed his running clothes, stripping down to his wife beaker and stripped boxer shorts with his scarf still wrapped around his neck. Dumping the clothing against their battered living room couch, Mako noted the sound of grunting coming from their room.
He shuffled over to their kitchen, the microwave clock displaying 5:01 AM, while he placed Bolin's (lukewarm) cup of coffee on the stove and threw away his empty cup. He grabbed his towel that was draped across one of their dining chairs before moving over to their shared bedroom. Bolin was in the middle of a bench pressing set as he walked in. "Hey Bo, I got you a cup of coffee from this place I found. It's on the stove if you want it."
Bolin's face was flushed pink as he bench pressed a couple of more reps in, "… Thank …you." He grunted as Mako slipped into their bathroom.
Smelling fresh and feeling clean, Mako walked out of the showers a few minutes later. With only a damp towel draping over his head, he walked over to his dresser for some clean clothes. He could hear Bolin making some noise in the kitchen.
"Yo Mako! Are you out of the showers yet? I stink!" Bolin asked, sipping his cup of Joe and sorting through some mail as he waited. Bolin was proud to say that he also set a personal best today in the number of max reps he was able to accomplish before he could no longer move his arms or feel his chest.
"All yours bro," Mako said, exiting their bedroom while towel drying his hair, a set of clothes draped around one arm. Bolin chugged the rest of his coffee before sprinting past his brother. Mako chuckled as he draped his clothes against the arms of their couch, careful as to not wrinkle them.
As the water pipes behind their apartment walls creaked, Mako took Bolin's previous seat at the kitchen table and shifted through their mail. Bills, bills, spam mail, wrong address, bills – He rubbed the bridge of his nose, draping his towel over one of the dining chairs to air drive. Suppressing a yawn as he walked towards the living room, he started getting dressed for the day –
"Hey Mako," Bolin called, peeking his head over of their door way. His hair was still wet, sticking to his forehead as he held a towel loosely around his waist. "Hey, so yesterday, I passed by this 24 hour diner that I thought we should check out for breakfast."
Mako nodded, shrugging his black blazer on, "Sure, but get dressed first."
5:27 AM: Beifong's 24Hr Diner
"Hey Bo," Mako said as they parked their vehicle in front of Beifong's Diner.
Bolin undid his seat beat and looked up, "Yes Mako?"
"This place looks pretty good," Mako smiled, getting out of the car first.
Bolin's face split into a huge grin as he followed after his brother inside Beifong's Diner, "You really think so? I found this place while I was –" Mako nudged Bolin in the ribs and before Bolin could complain, he gestured to the waitress that was serving some coffee to a couple of customers sitting at the counter. Bolin followed his brother's gaze:
She had wavy black hair that was pinned up in a low ponytail. A few strands near her face had escaped and she tucked them behind her ear, smiling when a customer at the bar cracked a joke. Her green t-shirt complimented her body shape well, fitting snug but leaving just enough for imagination. Mako watched, in slow motion, as she looked up and met his amber gaze with her deep emerald one – "Hey there! Welcome to Beifong's. Sit anywhere you want and I'll be right there." She flashed the brothers a smile and Bolin pushed Mako before he could open his mouth.
"Sweet, thank you!" Bolin said, leading Mako to an empty booth on the right side of the diner.
"What the fuck was that for?" Mako whispered, referring to the hard shove Bolin had given him when the beautiful waitress had greeted them. He winced as they slide into opposites sides of the booth.
Bolin glanced over his shoulder to make sure the waitress wasn't coming – she was still chatting up the customers at the bar. He leaned over the table and gave Mako a frown, "So you wouldn't say anything stupid!"
Mako made a face, "I wasn't going to do anything stupid!"
Bolin didn't look convinced, "Oh really?" He frowned, and leaned in closer so he could loudly whisper, "Would you like to be reminded of that time that we went to the bar and you had one too many to drink, so you –"
"Um, do you all need a moment?" The waitress asked, standing in front of their booth with two menus tucked under her arm. Her green eyes were even prettier up close as she looked back and forth between Mako and Bolin, taking a step back to indicate that she'd give them a moment –
Mako's mouth opened and closed like a fish. Bolin rolled his eyes at his brother's reaction before flashing the waitress an easy going smile. "Hi, and sorry about that," He said, gesturing to Mako who was now very interested in the table. "You were saying?"
The waitress composed herself, flashing both brothers a smile. "I was just wondering what you guys would like to drink."
"Two waters, please." Mako croaked out, face a flame in embarrassment. If the waitress noticed Mako's bright red blush, she didn't comment on it as she placed the menus in front of each brother respectfully.
"Alright. Well, I'm Asami and I'll be your waitress this morning. I'll be right back with your drinks." She smiled and then she was gone.
Bolin looked down at their menu, pursing his lips in thought as he gauged over what his stomach wanted at the moment. He was thinking steak and eggs. "Yo Mako," Bolin said, looking over their variety of omelets, "They have your favorite." Bolin looked up when Mako didn't respond – his brother was wearing the most stupid face ever as he watched Asami move behind the counter before disappearing into the kitchen.
Bolin rubbed the bridge of his nose and sighed. Oh god. "Earth to Mako." He said, making walkie-talkie sounds to indicate frequency. "Earth to Mako, come in Mako, over." He waited.
Mako's cheeks were pink, his eyes droopy, and his mouth only slightly open. 'At least he isn't drooling this time,' Bolin mused. He then proceeded to lean over and wave a hand in front of his older brother's face. "Mako, snap out of it!" His brother waved Bolin's hand away as to not obscure his vision of Asami – who was coming back with their waters.
Bolin glanced over his shoulder and gasped. "Mako! Stop staring, she's going to think you're a creep!"
"I'm not a creep!" Mako snapped, glaring at Bolin just as Asami stopped in front of their table. Again, if she noticed Mako staring at her the entire time, she didn't comment on it. "There you guys go." She smiled and took out her waitress pad and pen. "Are you guys ready to order, or do you need a minute?"
Bolin shook his head, "I'll have the steak and eggs please."
"And how would you like your steak?" Asami asked, scribbling on her waitress pad.
"Um … Medium, please."
Asami nodded, "And your eggs?"
Asami nodded once again, scribbling down the specifics of Bolin's order before turning to Mako. "And for you?" She asked, waiting as Mako snapped out of his daze once again.
Mako blushed. He glanced at the menu, ordering the first thing he saw, "I'll take the Ghost Pepper Ultimate Omelet please."
Asami paused, raising an eyebrow, "You are aware of how spicy that is, right?"
Mako's ears turned pink, and nodded. Asami hesitantly nodded before writing it down in her note pad. "Alright," She said, tucking her waitress pad into her apron before taking the menus off the table, "You're order will be right out. And if you need anything, just call."
Bolin smiled as she walked away but the moment she was out of ear shot, he turned to Mako with a confused look, "Dude!" Bolin leaned across the booth's table and shook Mako's shoulders. "Are you fucking crazy?! You ended up in the hospital the last time you ate spicy stuff!"
"Thank you, come again!" Asami shouted as two older men waved before walking out. Asami had just turned around to get started on the pile of dishes gathering up when the door open and the bell chimed once again. She sighed, "Hello, welcome to Bei – Oh, you girls came right in time!" Asami smiled at two ladies that had come to relieve her. She followed them into the kitchen.
"Sorry 'Sami," One of them said, walking into the employee locker room, "Morning traffic was horrible today." The other one nodded, pulling out her apron from her locket.
"It's alright. I understand." Asami reassured, slipping out of her apron as she gathered her things from her locker. She decided to take her waitress apron home, seeing how it needed a good wash. "It's actually pretty slow right now, but I didn't really get any sleep, so I'm dying to get home."
"Oh sweetie, that's horrible!" The second lady said, tying her apron around her waist, "You go right on home, we got you covered doll." And before Asami could thank them, they left the employee locker room, shouting "Welcome to Beifong's" when the door opened and the bell chimed again.
'Just 30 more minutes and I'll be home.' She thought, slipping on her biker jacket and slamming her locker room shut. She exited the locker room and stepped out of the kitchen, turning left behind the counter to an office door that was next to the cash register. Asami knocked twice, watching the two waitresses work their morning magic before Lin gave her the go ahead to come in.
Lin sat in her office, behind her desk with paper work all over. "What's up kid?" She asked, pushing her reading glasses down to look up at Asami.
Asami smiled, "Just wanted to let you know that I'm heading off already." She nodded towards the paper work littered across Lin's desk, "You gonna stay a while?"
Lin sighed, looking much older than 50 for a moment. "Yah, got some numbers to balance and all that." She smiled before pushing her reading glasses back up. She picked up a sheet of paper to get a closer look at it, "Get going kid. You look like death."
Asami smiled before nodding, "Alright Lin, take care." She said, closing the door on her way out.
Asami walked back into the kitchen, "See ya Ryuji." She said as she passed by the large man in tattoos who covered the stoves when Lin was busy.
He glanced over his shoulder. "Take care, Asami." He smiled with a wave just as Asami slipped out the back door.
The sun was up, leaving no shadows for Asami to avoid as she walked towards her moped. She blinked herself awake, even giving herself a good slap to wake up as she fired on the ignition. "Ain't no use falling asleep on the road when I'm almost home." She mumbled, slipping on her helmet and taking off towards the direction of the Silk Road Bridge.
After a 5 minute trek through the central streets of town, 10 minutes stuck in traffic on the bridge leading towards the west side of the city, and another 5 minutes driving down the one way street to her apartment complex, Asami could practically feel her sheets around her as they beckoned her back to sleep.
"Almost there." She mumbled. Her eyelids were heavy as she parked her moped up on the 7th floor of her apartment's car lot.
The trek towards the door leading inside, and then down the hall to apartment 7A was well worth the wait. Asami had just stuck her key into her doorknob when, "Hey Sato." Saikhan, the landlord residing in 7D, called out to her.
Asami wanted to bang her head against her doorframe. "Yeah?" She asked, trying to keep the exhaustion from her voice.
Saikhan, a low life in his 40s, leaned against his doorframe and scratched his underbelly that was peeking out of his stained wife beater. "You're late on your rent again." He mused, raking his eyes over the dark jeans she was wearing.
Asami swore under her breath. "Yah, um, I'll pay by the end of the week." She said, hoping that Saikhan would leave her alone –
He pointed his index finger at her, "Don't forget." He stated firmly, before disappearing inside his own apartment.
Asami was quick to slip inside her own apartment in case he changed his mind and demanded that she pay it now. Throwing her shoulder into the door to slam it shut, she hastily locked the door knob and the lock and chain she secretly had installed.
Safe in her own apartment, she closed her eyes and gave a sigh of relief. She shrugged off her jacket, throwing it onto the green couch that was at the end of her bed. Stepping out of her shoes, she stripped out of her diner uniform. In only her underclothes, Asami nearly cried with joy when she crawled into bed.
"Home …sweet home." She yawned, slipping into dreamland the moment her head hit the pillow.
7:22 AM: City Hall
"You sure this is the place?" Mako asked before taking a sip of the water bottle they had purchased from a convenient store – that Ghost Pepper Ultimate Omelet hadn't been as hot as Bolin had expected, but it still did a number on his mouth.
"Yah, I'm sure." Bolin said as he unbuckled his seat belt. The brothers stepped out of their banged up car, fixing their shirt collars and smoothing out their jackets. They stood outside City Hall in the middle of Central Republic City.
"How do I look?" Bolin asked, running his fingers through his hair as Mako inspected his attire. His brother was wearing pressed black pants, with a matching black blazer, complete with a dark green button up and fancy loafers.
Mako stepped up to his brother, removing a piece of lint from his shoulder before nodding. "You look good, Bo. How about me?" Mako was wearing similar clothes to his brother, the only difference being he was wearing a dark red button up instead of green.
"Looking good, Mako!" Bolin smiled, giving him two thumbs up.
"Hi," Mako greeted, walking up to the receptionist's desk, while Bolin gave a single wave.
The receptionist glanced up from her computer screen. "Just a moment." Her fingers flew across the keyboard, making last minute changes to an important document. Mako and Bolin nodded, slipping their hands into their pockets as they waited. "Okay." The receptionist said, looking up from the computer screen before her eyes widened. "Wait a minute – you two are the Brothers! I'm a huge fan of you guys! That combo you two threw to knockout your opponent in the last round last year was just simply … amazing!" The receptionist flushed fumbling with her glasses to get a better look at them.
Bolin couldn't resist flashing a charming smile as Mako rubbed the back of his neck bashfully. "Yah that was one of my favorite fights actually." Bolin said, then going on to explain how he mentally and physically prepared himself in the locker room before the fight. He was going into such graphic detail, but Mako didn't have the heart to stop him, seeing how the receptionist was absorbing every word of it.
Once Bolin was done explaining how he then contacted the ancient spirts to give his muscles the ability to shine in the spot light, did the receptionist stand up from her desk to shake both of their hands, "Oh my, I can't believe it, I –" She paused, color draining from her face as she whispered, "Can I have your autograph?"
Mako smiled before Bolin could do or say anything stupid, "Of course, always happy to meet a fan."
They both signed a piece of paper while the receptionist tried not to squeal too loud. She carefully folded the paper and placed it in her purse under her desk, mumbling something about showing Barbara. Once the paper was safe, she composed herself and gave Mako and Bolin a huge smile. "Sorry about that," She said, embarrassed, "But what can I help you two with?"
Mako stepped forward again, "It's okay. And we saw the ads around town, about Councilmen Tenzin hiring anyone interested in changing the city –"
Bolin stepped forward, "We're here to apply."
The receptionist smiled again, taking a seat at her desk. She took a moment to type something on her computer, "You guys are in luck. Councilman Tenzin is in his office right now. I just notified him about two new applicants –" Her computer dinged, and she paused to read the incoming message. "Oh great! He said to send you two in." She gestured to the hall on her left. "Second door on the left. Good luck!"
"Come in." Tenzin said when someone knocked on his door.
The door opened to reveal two sharply dressed young men. Tenzin gave them a polite smile as he stood. "Hello there, you two must be the new applicants. I'm Councilman Tenzin, it's a pleasure to meet you both." He shook their hands before gesturing to the seats in front of his desk, "Please, have a seat." All three made themselves comfortable before Tenzin spoke. "So, I understand that you boys are interested in working for me?"
The one on Tenzin's left, cleared his throat to speak first. "Yes sir. Oh, um, I'm Mako by the way." Mako gestured to his left, "And this is my younger brother, Bolin." Bolin gave Tenzin a polite nod before turning his attention to Mako as he spoke again, "But yes sir. My brother and I are both very interested in working for your re-election campaign."
Before Tenzin could speak, Bolin jumped in. "You see, my brother and I are interested in …finding employment elsewhere at the moment. And we were walking around the other day when we noticed your campaign ads. And well, the both of us," Bolin gestured in between Mako and him, "are huge fans of the polices you helped draft while apart of Raiko's cabinet, such as the –" Tenzin held up his hand to stop Bolin from speaking.
"I see. I'm flattered you both are such huge fans, but I just have a question to ask." Mako and Bolin both sat up straighter in their seats as Tenzin said, "You mentioned you are looking for employment elsewhere?"
Mako looked at Bolin and nodded, "Yes, my brother and I are contracted under the Underground Fighting Network." Mako explained, Tenzin listening attentively, "Our contract is about to expire and we aren't looking to renew it …"
Tenzin stroked his greying beard. "Hm. I'm going to be honest with you both – I admire your drive. You both have motives as fighters to succeed and I have no doubt that you both will do great things for me in my re-election campaign." Tenzin paused, unaware that he was putting Mako and Bolin on the edge of their seats. "You both do realize that the campaign committee will eventually have to split up, if I get re-elected or not?" Tenzin asked, looking at both Mako and Bolin.
Bolin answered this time. "Oh yes, sir. We are very well aware that this is only a temporary employment." Mako nodded in agreement.
Tenzin smiled, standing up from his desk. "Well then! Welcome abroad you two!" He shook both their hands, amused at how quickly their faces lit up, "I'm sure we will be working very closely together in the future."
Eye-catch: With the sound of bacon sizzling and the coffee brewing, a women hummed to herself, flipping her over easy eggs onto a plate when they had finished cooking. Adding to her nameless tune, she spread butter on her toast and went over to the cabinet to grab a clean coffee mug when the morning news went to commercial break. The women paused, her gaze shifting over to the TV that was on in her living room –
"Hello. I'm sure a lot of you recognize who I am, but for those of you that don't – I'm Councilman Tenzin. I've served on the Republic Council under President Raiko for –" The women stopped what she was doing all together, her attention totally focused on the campaign commercial and the bald man with a grey beard on her screen.
The bacon began to turn crisp and the coffee pot beeped as the women stayed transfixed, a small smile adorning her face as the ad ended. "So please. Do Republic City a favor, and re-elect councilmen Tenzin."
A/N: IT IS DONE.
Just wanted to quickly thank everyone who has been patient with me! You guys are so rad.
Also, just wanted to point out that Korra's car lifting scene was inspired by a scene from the move "Life of Crime (2013)". And if you wanted to know which remix of "Here" by Alessia Cara I used for Asami's dance routine, it would be the Mikey Valen Remix. And one last thing! A BIG SHOUT OUT to Whiskeyinducedwords for letting me cameo his little coffee shop, the Southern Tribe Coffee shop! (BTW, I'd like to dedicate this chapter to him as a week late birthday present.)
Well, what did you think? Too long? Too short? What did you like? What didn't you like? Let me know!