I own nothing, only a computer.
The Other Side
Chapter 7: War
"The pro-bending finals?" Korra asked, jaw hanging, "You've got to be kidding me."
"Don't talk to Amon that way," the Lieutenant snapped at her.
Amon waved him off.
"I assure you, I am not joking in the slightest, Kanna," he said.
"It's perfect, don't you see? Pro-bending is the best example of the public glorification of bending. It's also rank with cheating. Symbolically, there couldn't be a better place to start our fight," Eri said, "The world's eyes will be on the match this weekend, and soon, they will be on us and our struggle. This is an opportunity that we cannot pass up."
There was heat in his eyes and a thickness to his voice that roused the rest of the group into muttering their agreements.
"But how do we even begin such an enormous operation?" Korra asked.
"We have new equipment," the Lieutenant explained, "It's easily concealable and very effective. It's being shipped in tonight, and speaking of, some of you will need to stay to pick up the order."
"Kanna and Teru can stay," Eri said, and both groaned, although Korra only did so half-heartedly. Maybe she could pick up some new information about where the Equalists were getting their supplies. So far, no one had mentioned anything about where the massive amount of wealth that was needed to fund this operation was coming from.
"Anyways," the Lieutenant continued, "We have everything that we need, and the people involved with that aspect know what they are doing. As for you, all of you will join Amon at the center of the arena for this, and exit with him after we are done. The bending of the champions will be removed, and Equalist banners hung from the roof."
Korra could feel the missing parts of the plan, like when would this occur, how they were going to get into the arena undetected, how they were going to get out. They were worried. Amon did think that there was an informant in the group, and they were purposely not giving them all the details. She wondered if they had any suspects yet.
"The plan assumes that the champions are going to be cheaters. What if they win fair and square?" Teru asked, "Does their bending still get removed?"
"Their bending gets removed regardless of whether they cheat or not. It just so happens that the cheaters winning will help our cause more than the underdogs," the Lieutenant said, "And the cheaters will almost certainly win."
Something that felt a lot like vomit made its way up Korra's throat. Bolin and Mako. They needed the prize money so badly, but if they won... Their bending, their lives, once again on the line. Once again she would be party to the demise of her friends.
"There's going to be a lot of security at the match," Korra said skeptically, "A lot more than was at Tarrlok's party."
"Don't you worry about that," the Lieutenant said to Korra, "Everything will be taken care of."
She nodded at him, but her lips were drawn tight. The condescending tone that he used when talking to her made Korra want to rip her (or better yet, his) hair out.
"We will meet here the evening before the match to ready ourselves for the mission. You will be given more information at that time," Eri said, "This evening's meeting is adjourned. You may go."
Korra and Teru stayed behind with Amon, the Lieutenant and Eri as the others filed out of the room, waiting for their orders.
"In around two hours, two delivery vans will arrive with the new equipment. If you would meet them when they arrive, and then deposit the equipment in the storage room, we would be most grateful," the Lieutenant said.
Both Korra and Teru nodded, and left the room to wait in the tunnels. Once outside, both of them relaxed.
Leaning up against the metal side of the bunker they had just left, Teru let out a long breath.
"The pro-bending finals, huh?" he said, "That's the big time."
Korra nodded in agreement.
"We'll make the news from Ba Sing Se to the South Pole," she said, and then paused for a moment, "It's going to be a real war, isn't it?"
"Yeah, it will be," Teru said, and she could feel the fear and anticipation behind his words, "But it was always going to be, wasn't it? This is what we signed up for, right?"
There was a little hesitation in his voice, Korra thought, and maybe a hint of regret.
Maybe he had signed up for war, but she hadn't. She had joined the organization to try to head it off, not to assist it in its assault on Republic City benders.
"Yes, we did sign up for it," she said, hoping that the sadness that she felt wasn't seeping through into her voice.
They stood in silence for a while, both pondering the war that they were on the brink of, and what that meant for their futures. Korra wondered about whether or not she would be removed from this position soon; she hadn't done any good, really. She had saved Bolin's bending, but she had not been able to do anything to hold back the tides of Amon's revolution.
"Shit!" Teru exclaimed, startling Korra out of her thoughts, "Oh shit, Kanna!"
"What is it?" she asked, looking around for the source of Teru's panic.
"I had to pay my rent tonight," he said, running his hands rapidly through his hair, "I was already late and my landlord said that if I didn't have it in by tonight I was going to be evicted. Shit!"
"If you leave now, will you make it in time?"
"Yeah, I think so," he said, "But I can't leave you here on your own!"
Korra shook her head.
"It's fine, I've got it covered. Go," she told him.
He exhaled loudly and grinned.
"Thank you so much, Kanna. I owe you one," he said, and dashed off.
Alone, Korra plopped down on the ground and crossed her legs. It was going to be a long night, apparently.
Korra was nodding off when the roaring sound of an engine began to echo in the tunnels. She looked up and saw the bright beams of headlights come into view. Yanking on her mask just as the two vans began to pull up next to her, Korra leapt to her feet. The drivers climbed out of the front, and went around the back to begin unloading the shipment.
"Just take those over there to the storage unit," Korra said to the first driver, who approached her asking where to put the crate he was carrying.
As she supervised the unloading of all the crates, Korra took in the vans, hoping to glean a little information about the suppliers of the new equipment. She got nothing. They were plain, unmarked, massive and gray machines, with nothing to indicate their place of origin. The crates, too, were unmarked, and Korra huffed a sigh of frustration. She had wasted her evening sitting in the tunnel for absolutely no information that she could use. The unloading finished, and the drivers climbed back into the vans, and drove off and out of sight.
Korra returned to the storage unit to do a final count of the crates before locking it up. She stepped inside the dark room and made her way to the back. Maybe, if she was quick, she could peek inside the crates and see what kind of weapons they contained. Quickly checking back to make sure that no one was around outside, Korra tried to quietly open a crate in the back of the room. After about a minute of struggling with the lid, Korra was able to lift it about three inches. It seemed like the best she was going to get, so she crouched down and tried peer inside of it.
In the dark, she could barely make out the outline of what looked like hands, but she heard footsteps behind her, and snapped the lid back into place, standing up as quickly as she could.
"Looking for something?" Amon asked, his huge form blocking out almost all light from outside as he stood in the doorway.
"N-no," Korra said, "I. I just got curious about what the new equipment was. That's all."
Amon strode towards her.
"Where is your partner?" he asked, stopping before Korra.
Like he didn't already know. Korra was sure that Amon was aware of all the comings and goings of everyone in the tunnels.
"Teru had to go home. He had to pay his rent," she explained, "If he didn't, his landlord was going to evict him."
"I see," Amon said, stepping even closer to Korra, "Well, thank you for filling in for him, Kanna."
"It was no problem, sir," she said, "Just doing my duty."
She could feel his eyes boring a hole into her, and she wished dearly that he would look away. It made her nervous, having him so close. It was like he could smell her secret, and that if he only inhaled a little deeper, he would know the truth, and her life would be over.
"Your duty is done, Kanna. Come. I will walk you out," he said, extending his arm towards the door.
Korra followed him out of the storage unit, glancing back at the crate she had been peering inside of. He walked towards the path of the tunnel that would lead her out.
"I hope the Lieutenant's harsh words haven't dulled your spirit," Amon said, "He is a very serious man, sometimes."
"Not at all, sir," Korra said, taken aback, "He thinks I'm disrespectful towards you."
"Perhaps you are," he said thoughtfully, "But perhaps he does not know that it is nice to see someone asking questions and taking interest, rather than just taking orders."
Korra could not believe her ears.
"I thought you wanted soldiers who would follow orders," Korra said, "Not ones who would question them."
"I don't wish for every soldier, as you put it, to openly question orders. There would be chaos. But leaders are not made by sitting passively and being told what to do. Leaders are made through critical thought and the ability to read situations and adjust plans accordingly."
"Leaders, sir?" Korra asked, wondering what he could possibly mean.
"Leaders who will step up in the coming weeks and months and take charge of the situation. Republic City is enormous. I cannot be everywhere at once, you know," Amon said, and Korra thought it sounded like he was smiling behind his mask.
They reached the place in the tunnels where Korra needed to exit. She felt like she should say something to Amon, but couldn't really think of anything that didn't sound stupid.
"Thanks for uh... walking me out, I guess," Korra said.
"And I'll thank you for not peeking into any more places that you shouldn't be," Amon said, "Good night, Kanna."
"Good night," Korra replied, and left Amon in the tunnel.
As she made her way back out onto the Republic City streets, Korra wondered what Amon did after they all left. Did he stay up all night and scheme? Or did he have a bedroom hidden somewhere deep in the labyrinth of tunnels? Maybe he had a home in the city, a secret life that no one knew about. Maybe he was like her.
Korra smiled to herself. Thinking of Amon living in a charming home in a Republic City suburb was amusing, to say the least. She pictured him cooking an evening meal, or sitting on his couch in his underwear, reading the paper, his mask still on. It was absurd, she thought, but not totally outside the realm of possibility. Amon was a person; he had to have come from somewhere. He had to have a home out there in the world, or at least he used to.
Korra wondered what he had been like before he had become the leader of the Equalists. Had he always been Amon? Or had he shed his identity and reinvented himself, like she had? There were so many questions about who he was. He was an enigma, and there was not so much as a clue to help her or anyone else figure him out.
In the morning, Korra woke early and went to Lin Beifong's apartment, to inform her of the impending situation.
"The war starts at the end of the pro-bending finals," Korra said, "They are going to remove the bending of the victors."
"War?" said Chief Beifong, "That's not being a little alarmist?"
"No, it's war. Real and total war. There's no going back now," Korra said.
"There's going to be a massive amount of security there. There's no way that an attack could be mounted."
Korra shook her head.
"They have new weapons. I don't know what they are; I wasn't able to get a good look. But they looked like they were in the shape of a hand. I don't know how we're getting in, or how we're getting out," Korra said, "I think they're getting suspicious. Not necessarily of me, but they think that there's a rat, and that's why they aren't giving us more details until the day of the attack."
Chief Beifong pinched the bridge of her nose. Her graying hair was still tangled from sleep, and Korra wondered if she was ever able to get more than a few hours. The stress of keeping a city safe in these troubled times was certainly having a visible effect on her.
"We will have to station more officers," Cheif Beifong said, "Tighten security."
She looked up and met Korra's eyes.
"You said that you're going to be there?" she asked.
"Yes. In the center of things, with Amon," Korra replied.
"Then we have to make sure that we know who you are. I will not tell my officers to hold back, but I also would rather not have to explain to Tenzin why I've accidentally killed the Avatar."
Korra swallowed nervously.
"Uh, Chief?" she said, "No offense to you, but I don't think Amon plans on there being too much of a fight."
Lin met Korra's eyes with a look of steely determination.
"I refuse to relinquish this city without putting up a fight," she said, "If we don't stand up against Amon, no one will, and he will win, without a doubt, and that, Avatar, is something we cannot let happen."
"He's certain that he will succeed with this, and that it will draw attention from the rest of the world onto the struggle," Korra said, "He knows that the whole world will be tuned into this match."
"The council is going to want to cancel the match," Lin said.
Korra's stomach flipped. If the match was cancelled, Amon would know for certain that there was a rat, and he would double the effort to draw out whoever was informing on their activities. Her cover would be blown in days.
"You can't cancel the match!" Korra blurted out, and then immediately regretted it, as Lin fixed her with a hard glare.
"I know that," she replied, "And I will do everything in my power to stop it from being cancelled, but there is only so much that I can do. For once, I think this is something that Tenzin and Tarrlok will agree on."
Korra bit her lip, but nodded again. Things were out of her hands now, and she hated it.
"Thank you for your help, Avatar," Lin said, "Even if we are unable to stop this war from happening, you have been very helpful in intelligence gather. We've now got surveillance on several of the entrances to the Equalist tunnels, and if it does come to war, it will be even more crucial to have someone on the inside."
She hadn't known that they had been watching the entrances to the tunnels. Did that mean that they knew who all the members of her unit were? Did they follow them all home? Did they follow her home? It made her uncomfortable, thinking about a group of armed police officers trailing behind her or Teru or Ira as they went to and from meetings, but this was what she had signed up for. To report on Equalist activities.
It just didn't help that she had genuinely grown to like most of these people, and the thought of them possibly being rounded up and interrogated for hours and hours on end made her slightly sick to her stomach. She tried not to think of it as a betrayal, but Korra knew that it was.
"Stay safe," Lin said as Korra left the apartment.
"I'll try," she replied, and stepped out into the bright morning.
"Are you sure that you don't want me to come?" Korra said, "Because I can come. It's only just downstairs."
She moved to stand up, but Mako pushed her back down, and she doubled over as if her stomach were cramping up. It had to be convincing.
"No," he said, "If you're sick, you're sick. You can listen to the match on the radio."
"But I feel so bad," she moaned, "I have barely been to any of your matches, and I promised to go to this one."
He shook his head, and pulled the blankets over her.
"You're not going to have a good time if you're about to vomit," he said, "I promise that we're not angry."
"Yeah!" Bolin said, "It's fine! You wouldn't be able to cheer anyways, being so sick."
"I'm so sorry," she said, "I really wish-"
"Just go to sleep. The match will be on in a couple of hours," Mako said, "I made some tea for you, and there's more by the stove."
"Feel better, Korra!" Bolin said as the brothers headed out the door.
"Good luck!" she called, making her voice sound as weak as possible.
"Thanks!" they called back in unison.
"And stay safe," she murmured to herself once they were gone.
Quickly, she made her way down into the tunnels, where she met the rest of her unit. They were pulling on their uniforms, no one speaking. An air of nervous anticipation filled the bunker. Korra could see the mixture of fear and excitement on their faces, and wondered how they had made their peace with what would happen to them should they fail. She still hadn't. Korra had no idea what Chief Beifong's plan was if they happened to capture her. Would she be tried as an Equalist? What if she was injured or even killed in the fight? The police wouldn't know that she was the Avatar.
With a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach, she considered the fact that Amon had no intentions of letting the police get anywhere near being able to stopping them. How would she make her peace with that?
She could try, and try she most certainly did, but there was no way that she could convince herself, truly and completely that whatever she did for the Equalists would be justified by the eventual peace and balance that it would bring. To keep her place on the inside she had to prove her loyalty, once and for all. To end it, she couldn't just sabotage one mission and be done with it; she had to chip away and deconstruct the whole machine for it to be over.
"I assume you are all prepared for the potential consequences of what we are about to do," Amon said to their unit, "I also assume you know that I have no intentions of the police even putting up a fight."
Everyone was on their feet and moving towards the vehicle that they would travel in.
"There isn't much you need to do, tonight. Most of the work is being done by the larger, less elite units, and will take place outside of the arena, or in the crowd," the Lieutenant said, "You will be there to make an impression, and to be our last line of defense if anything should go wrong."
They loaded themselves into the truck, and as soon as Amon was in there with them, the engine started and they were off. There was no turning back now.
When they arrived, the Lieutenant led them through tunnels and passages that Korra hadn't even known existed, and they emerged just below the arena. She could hear the roar of the crowd above, and strained her ears to try to listen to the commentator.
"And there you have it folks, the Wolfbats are once again your Pro-Bending champions, thanks to some frankly shady calls by the refs!"
Korra felt an immense rush of relief flood her body. Mako and Bolin would keep their bending, at least for now.
"And that's our cue," Eri said.
As they emerged into the arena, Korra tried to take in the chaos that had erupted around them. People were screaming and running for the exits, and there were flashes of electricity in the air. Metalbending police officers were dropping like flies, and the panic in the crowd was tangible. It would be a miracle if someone didn't get killed in the stampede to escape. Vaguely, she could hear the commentator announcing his own demise. The screams echoed across the arena, so different from the whoops and shouts of enthusiasm that had filled it only minutes before.
And then they were on the platform, in the center of the arena. The Wolfbats stood before them, confused and angry and scared, just like everyone else. Korra watched as their captain, Tahno, stepped forward and foolishly challenged Amon. It was pathetic, really. There was no contest, not even a fight. The Wolfbats were flung unceremoniously over the side of the ring and down into the water below.
As Amon spoke to the crowd, Korra searched for Mako and Bolin. Maybe they had left the arena after they had been knocked out. Maybe they had gotten away. Her hope died in her chest as the Lieutenant emerged from below the platform to inform Eri that the other team had been electrocuted and restrained below.
So much for staying safe, she thought.
Almost as quickly as it had happened, it was over. The glass overhead shattered, large shards raining down along with metal cables from the airships above. The unit grasped onto these, and was raised out of the arena. Korra looked down as they were being lifted, and wondered how many people were going to suffer because of this. Sure, only Tahno and the Wolfbats had their bending taken tonight, but this was an act of war. What came after this, she could only guess.
They were almost in the airship when Lin Beifong, swinging on metal cables of her own, knocked her and the Lieutenant off of their lines. She must not know it's me, Korra thought as she lost her grip and tumbled downwards. As she fell back towards the glass roof, Korra could only look up at Amon, watching silently from the airship. The glass cracked as she smacked into it, but didn't break.
As light on her feet as possible, Korra moved towards the Lieutenant and Beifong, who were dueling several yards away. She had to end this fight without arousing suspicion from the Lieutenant.
The Lieutenant swung his electrified Kali sticks with all his might, but Lin was quick and deadly with her metal. It was beautiful, the way she used the metal beams and rods that criss crossed the ceiling, striking out at the Lieutenant with them. But Korra had to end it, so that she could get back to the Equalists with her cover intact.
She darted forward, and before Lin had time to react, Korra kicked the legs out from under the police chief, sending her clattering to the ground. Lin was up again in seconds, but Korra tried to steer her towards the gaping hole in the roof. Lin could feel what she was doing, and resisted by instinct. Korra swung out at her, catching her by the arm. She twisted it behind her and whispered in her ear.
"It's me," she said, and was about to let go to let Lin get away when the glass beneath her feet shattered.
They fell through the air and down through the arena, Korra clinging to Lin, fighting every instinct that she had to bend the water up to soften their fall. Before they hit the ground, Lin shot out her metal cables. They landed roughly, but not so bad as it would have been otherwise.
Korra rolled across the floor, and shot to her feet, though her body was wracked with pain. She looked up to see the Lieutenant staring down at her.
Would he send another cable down, or would she have to think her way out of this?
Tenzin was there, rushing towards her and Lin. He didn't know it was her, Korra thought. If she moved quick enough, she could get out of there before he came after her. And they would have to come after her. Both Tenzin and Lin looking up at the Lieutenant, still hovering at the hole in the roof, watching the scene play out below.
Korra made a mad dash for the exit, and felt the wind whip violently at her back as Tenzin bent the air around her.
"Tenzin!" Lin called out, still sprawled on the floor, her voice full of agony.
Korra glanced over her shoulder at Lin, who grimaced dramatically as Tenzin ran to her side. It was a reasonable explanation for not giving chase. Korra knew that Lin would explain everything to him later. She ran for the exit again, and this time she made it. Outside, she scaled the side of the building so that she was once again on the roof, where the Lieutenant stood, waiting for her. The airship dropped them cables once again, and in silence, they were lifted upwards, and away from the shattered mess of the Pro-Bending arena.
Smoke drifted up from police airships, crashed into the ground, and sirens blared in the distance. Korra stared out at the statue of Avatar Aang, watching serenely over them all, unaffected by the chaos on this side of the bay. As their airship sailed away, Korra shuddered, and not just because it was cold.
Republic City was at war.
well! that's that then! I've had the first half of this written for some time, but I just couldn't get going on the second half until yesterday and so I finally finished it, but it's been so long I'm afraid you've all forgotten about it! Sorry!
Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this chapter and are having wonderful summers (or winters, depending on where you are, I guess).
Reviews are always always always appreciated!