I think the warnings are fairly self-evident, here.


1.

A grizzled old man walked through the empty lot at night. When he came to a chain link fence, he drew bolt cutters from under his coat and made a door. Across another lot, to the generators. An alarm sounded, but he didn't move any faster. By the time anyone reached him, he'd be gone.

The charred remains of Lightning Bolt Zolt were found clutching a live wire. They say he was smiling.


2.

It was a threat he'd given to others enough times. A long walk off a short pier, maybe a trip with some cement boots.

He didn't know why today. Maybe it was the news of Zolt. Maybe it was the rain. He didn't like rain anymore.

When he got to the end of his depth, Shady Shin took a deep breath and kept walking. He knew he wouldn't come back up. There were too many angry ghosts beneath these waves.


3.

Qing the Quake was found alive under a slab of rock at the quarry. The earthbenders lifted it off him, but there were no healers among them. His bones were pulverized, his organs crushed.

He died in the ambulance. They say in his final minutes he repeated the words, "Put me back."

Up until this point, these strange events were believed to be part of a gang war by the police. The revolutionary Amon and his supposed powers were nothing but a strange rumor.


4.

Shaozu stepped over broken glass, a can of gasoline sloshing in his hand. He stopped in the middle of the ring, where only a day ago he'd celebrated his victory.

Without any of the fanfare of his last appearance, Shaozu poured the gas over his head, and lit a match.

The stands were empty for the final performance of the four-time champion.


5.

"Don't you dare," Ming said. "Don't even think about it. You selfish ass. Don't you know you're all I have left?"

Tahno tore his eyes away from the window, from the sight of the harbor lapping endlessly at the shore. "I wasn't doing anything." His gaze slid over to Ming, shadowed and hollow.

"I lost Shaozu. I'm not losing you too." He wrapped his arms around Tahno, as though he could physically anchor him to the world. "You're my selfish ass, okay."

"Maybe if I wasn't such a selfish ass, I could have stopped Shaozu," Tahno said. "I'm the captain. I should have….I should have…." He trailed off, listless.

"It wasn't your fault," Ming said.

That same dead-eyed stare met his gaze, and Ming had to turn away. "Liar," Tahno said.


"What are we fighting for, exactly?" Tahno asked. He had a hangover and a bottle of stiff liquor in his hand, but he didn't feel numb yet. Nothing made him numb enough.

"Our lives," Ming said.

"Why, though?" He pulled a bottle of pills from his pocket. Ming looked up at him sharply, full of fear. "Wanna go down to the beach?"

"It's snowing, Tahno."

"I know. I just thought—"

"I don't want to know what you thought."

"Fine, fine," Tahno said, turning to the bottle again. Ming snatched the pills out of his hand, and dumped them in the toilet, his fingers shaking. Tahno didn't stop him.

"I wouldn't have done it anyway," Tahno said. "Not with pills. Give me some credit."

Ming looked at him, pained. "Do you think this is easy for me? We both lost our bending. We both lost our best friend. You can't expect me to carry both of us, Tahno, I need you to—" his voice broke, and he wiped at his eyes, "I need you to be there for me too. Please."

"I don't expect you to carry both of us," Tahno said. In contrast to Ming's reddened, puffy face, Tahno was pale and calm. All his tears had been cried out. He'd lost his hope. He'd found peace. "Why bother, anyway? You don't have to save me. You could let me go. You could even come with me."

The tears fell down Ming's face, and he didn't even try to hide them anymore. "Because I love you, Tahno. Not your bending, not the Wolfbats, you."

Tahno unexpectedly found there was a lump in his throat. So there was still something left to hurt. "Idiot," he muttered.


Ming just had to remember to hear the opposite of whatever Tahno said. He slept by his side, though they were both too angry and sad for sex, and when Tahno got up to use the bathroom, Ming would rouse, staring at the light under the door until Tahno returned, counting the seconds. They mostly ordered food in, because Ming wouldn't leave Tahno alone, and getting Tahno to go outside was an effort that would take all day.

He didn't let Tahno bathe alone. He'd sit on the cold tile floor while Tahno washed. Tahno wouldn't meet his eyes, as if he was ashamed. Not of his nakedness, a boundary they had long since crossed, but of the limp, sullen way the water pooled around him, the way it ran through his fingers. But sometimes Ming would hold his hand, slippery with soap, as though he was afraid of losing him even in a foot of water, as though he could be pulled down the drain, out to sea.

Maybe Tahno was right in that he'd failed Shaozu. They both had. But though Ming didn't like to admit it, Tahno's selfishness was what was saving him now. He needed to be swept up in someone else's problems like they were bigger than his, even if the hole in them was exactly the same size. He needed to be someone else's rock. Because if he was Tahno's lifeline, he couldn't afford to falter.


6.

The scene which finally gave the epidemic the full awareness of the police was the one which struck them closest to home. But by that time, Equalist dirigibles hung over the city, and reporters were too busy to spend much time on the deaths of five former police officers.

It took place in the home of one Sergeant Kehn. It was gruesomely meticulous, with tarps laid down and towels on the floor. People say that despite the amount of blood on the scene, the carpet was pristine.

There was a suicide note, with parts written and signed by all five of them. There were apologies, and simple directives—bequeathments, unfinished business to be attended to, outstanding debts, and one officer asking that a new home be found for his pet.

After Lin Beifong's release from Amon's custody, she went immediately to what was left of the police, to help where she could with her years of experience, in light of the capture of Chief Saikhan and his top officers. She found the forces she once led scattered and afraid. And she found the apartment of Sergeant Kehn.

All five had ended their lives with the same knife. Lin pulled on gloves and picked the knife from the hand of the last man to die. She knew it. She'd bent it herself from raw ore. It had been a gift to Kehn, on the occasion of his promotion to Sergeant.

She wiped the blood off on her handkerchief, and slipped it in her coat pocket, next to her heart.

"That's evidence, Ma'am," one of the rookies that had come with her said.

"I think it's abundantly obvious what happened here," Lin said, and, knowing they would understand, "and that was my knife."


7.

When the Avatar put one hand to Lin's forehead, and the other to her heart, she couldn't have known she was less than an inch from the knife that had taken the lives of five of Lin's best men.

Lin never told anyone. She didn't know herself, ultimately, if she would have followed them. But in some twisted way, having the knife there comforted her. Every moment she kept fighting, she knew it was a choice.

It was a choice she was strong enough to make.


8.

The disappearance of Councilman Tarrlok was perhaps the most mysterious of them all.

After the respected official had revealed himself to be a bloodbender, and the Avatar had escaped from his clutches, police went out to the safehouse in the mountains. The Avatar said Tarrlok had lost his bending to Amon, but wasn't clear on whether he'd managed to escape.

All that was found was a trail of footprints in the snow, leading from the cabin into the mountains, eventually disappearing under fresh snowfall. No body was ever recovered, but he was presumed dead.

It fit the pattern, the police said.

Still, conspiracy theories persisted. An old man by the docks swore up and down to all the tabloids that he saw Councilman Tarrlok with another man, leaving just before dawn on the day after the Revolution fell. Still other rumors continued. Some say the charred bodies recovered on the shores of the Earth Kingdom south of Republic City belonged to him and Amon; but some say that Tarrlok would die as many times as he needed to to make a new life.

It can be said for certain that he never returned openly to Republic City, however, despite the Avatar's inexplicable offer of amnesty for him, and a return of his bending. No bender had ever refused her offer to restore them, so perhaps the conspiracy theories were nothing more than paranoid conjecture after all.

One other matter regarding the Councilman's disappearance stuck out as strange: the very safehouse he had once imprisoned the Avatar in had been left to her in his will. The rest of his assets he had left to his mother in the Northern Water Tribe, but a house that far south she would have had no use for, and it was hardly worth enough to sell. It was not known when he made this adjustment to his will, considering the Avatar had only been in Republic City a few months, and his death supposedly occurred mere hours after kidnapping her.

Perhaps it was an apology, though when asked by reporters, Avatar Korra went on record as saying it was a strange way of saying it.

"Do you think he's really dead?" the reporter asked.

The Avatar was silent a moment, looking somewhere over the crowd and the flashbulbs going off in her face, and that's the picture that made it into the papers that week, the Avatar's thousand-yard stare—"I don't know," she said finally. "I hope he's at peace."