A Study in Sato
Asami cowered in the dark. Lost, alone.
Her house was so big, now that Mama was gone.
It was raining. It thundered. Lightning crackled through the sky, a flash of blue through the windows.
Just like the blue flash the night Mama died.
Asami squeaked, a scream strangled behind her lips, and fled her hiding place, skidding around a corner in the long, dark hall to find the door to her father's office.
"Asami?" Daddy said, opening his door.
Asami flung herself into his warm arms. "Daddy!" she cried, clinging to his shirt. "The lightning!"
"It's not going to hurt you," Hiroshi Sato promised, whispering the words into Asami's hair. "I'll never let it hurt you."
Asami stood looking out over the bay.
Republic City smoked, dull gray plumes billowing from the skyline, laid to waste by her father's flying machines.
Asami shivered, wrapping her arms around herself.
He was terrible. She'd told him that. She'd meant it.
She was better off without him. With his arrest, control of Sato Industries would pass to her. And she could use it to repair everything her father had tried to tear down.
She could do something good.
She would hire workers to rebuild, buy the materials necessary. Her crews would consist of benders and non-benders, toiling side by side to erect new towers and walls, just as Avatar Aang had always intended.
Urban renewal. Modern renaissance.
Honest work for people like Mako and Bolin.
She'd been so sheltered until she met them.
Because of her father.
Asami Sato was full of plans.
And yet she felt lost.
"I don't want to go," ten year old Asami told her father, not quite whining. "No one likes me. They all hate me, because I'm not a bender."
"They don't hate you," Daddy admonished gently. "They just don't understand what it's like for non-benders. They don't realize how important it is for you to know how to defend yourself from the likes of them. If you learn firebending forms, you'll know just what to do if one attacks you."
Their driver pulled to a stop outside of Kuzon Firebending Academy, then hopped out of the Satomobile to open the rear passenger door for Asami.
Asami gathered up her gear bag, and stepped onto the street. "I'll do my best, Daddy," she promised.
Hiroshi Sato smiled.
Asami sat at the big oak desk in the top floor office of Sato Industry Headquarters. Somehow it seemed like a sea before her, an ocean she had no hope of swimming in.
"Ms. Sato," a voice came through her intercom, "Avatar Korra is here to see you."
Asami felt tension she hadn't known was there flow from her shoulders. "Send her in."
The door opened, and Korra stepped through, unusually subdued. Asami thought she knew why.
"Korra, about Mako – " she started, only to have the breath squeezed out of her when Korra caught her up in a bone crushing hug. Asami's feet were lifted off the floor.
"I care about Mako," Korra said in Asami's ear. "But you matter too."
Asami rested her cheek against Korra's hair, and felt tears well behind her eyelids.
She didn't let them fall.
Asami executed a perfect Swooping Dragon kick, flipping over her opponent and sweeping his feet.
"Well done, Sato!" her sifu called.
Asami bowed first to her sparring partner, then to her master, her cheeks pink with pleasure and exertion.
Sifu returned her bow, and then signaled for all of the class to pay attention. "For those of you fifteen and over, the recruiters for probending will be here tomorrow afternoon! Anyone interested in bending professionally should come to my office after this lesson and fill out an application form."
Asami's heart pounded with excitement, her blood rushing in her ears.
"What are you grinning about, Sato?" growled the boy she'd just sent tumbling to the mats. "You're too young. And even if you weren't, it's not like they'd let you play. You can't actually bend."
Her fantasies of winning the Probending Finals crushed like metal in the scrap heap behind Sato Industries, Asami whirled, hair flying about her face. "Well I beat you easily enough!"
He smirked. "Only because we're not allowed to use fire when we spar with you. If we could, you'd never win."
Asami stomped from the dojo.
The summer solstice was drawing near. Asami has been invited to be a guest of the Southern Water Tribe, no doubt at Korra's behest.
She looked forward to seeing the avatar again. She'd never really had a girlfriend…erm, a friend who was also a girl, before.
It surprised her, that she missed Korra more than anyone. Asami and Mako were over and done, but she had thought herself in love with him. And yet now, while it would be nice to see him again, that zing of feeling, that heart flutter she had once associated with him was gone. As if it had never been there at all.
Maybe she didn't know what love was.
Daddy was busy in his office, so Asami played on the factory floor. Fa Zin, one of the firebenders that worked for Daddy as a welder, showed Asami how to drive a forklift. They drove it back and forth across the factory, only stopping when it was time to turn on the radio to listen to the probending match.
"I wish I could be a probender," Asami said. Then she bit her lip, thinking Fa Zin would laugh at her.
But she didn't.
"Me too," Fa Zin smiled. "But I'm not nearly good enough. Some of us just aren't made that way. But…" and now there was a spark of lightning in those golden firebender eyes, "there's something else I'm really good at. I can show you sometime, if you like."
Asami nodded enthusiastically, and the next time Daddy had to work late, Fa Zin took her to a track where people raced Satomobiles.
She was in love. Soon Asami had convinced Fa Zin and her father to let her be on Fa Zin's pit crew. She learned how to build an engine, change a tire, and how far an axle could be pushed before it broke.
When Asami turned sixteen, she began racing herself, and her father started bringing her in to consult on new Satomobile models.
She finally had a place.
The trip to the South Pole was made on the back of a Sky Bison. Asami wanted to take one of the Sato Industry flying machines, but thought better of it when General Iroh pointed out that people who had been at the siege of Republic City might take the sight of one of the machines as an attack. It could cause panic.
Asami squeezed the hard leather edge of Oogi's saddle. She would make the name 'Sato' respectable again, she swore it. She would show people that aeroplanes, as she had named them, allowed anyone to soar above the clouds.
That even non-benders could fly.
She would restore her family's honor.
Asami drove her new scooter, hurrying along the roadway. She was late for the test burn of the new racing model of the Satomobile.
And she was going to be even later, for ahead, at an intersection by the open air market, a crowd had gathered. They were blocking the road.
"Amon promises a world where benders are not better! Where we are not second class citizens! A world, where we are all equal!" called the man speaking.
Flyers were being passed around. Asami got off her scooter and took one.
A sinister mask stared up at her.
"This isn't right," she said, mostly to herself. "Sometimes there are problems, yes, but benders are just people. They shouldn't be demonized this way."
Asami would always be grateful that Daddy had made her learn firebending. If she hadn't spent so much time with benders, had let the fear of her mother's death fester, she might be just like this Amon.
The Southern Tribe's Solstice Festival was truly something to behold. Everywhere Asami turned, there was dancing and lights, fantastic ice sculptures, and incredible displays of waterbending.
Most inspiring of all was Master Katara standing at the center of an ice gazebo with Korra. Katara would heal any who came forward, while Korra looked on, and learned.
Asami waited until the crowd thinned to approach them.
"I don't need healing," she told Master Katara when the old woman raised her wrinkled hands. "I just came to say hello to Korra."
Those wise blue eyes seemed to contain the push and pull of the tides. "Is that so?" Master Katara asked.
Asami didn't know how to answer.
Sato Industries was hosting a charity ball, to raise money for repairs to the city's roads. Daddy joked that it was in their best interests, since their highest selling product was Satomobiles.
It was a masquerade ball. The theme was famous figures from history. Asami kept her costume secret, wanting to see if anyone would recognize her.
"Avatar Kyoshi, I presume?" a deep voice addressed her.
Asami turned around and looked up at a hooded figure. The man was wearing a white mask with red markings. She'd seen that somewhere before…
"Amon?" she asked, uncertain. "Does he count as a historical figure?"
The eyes behind the mask seemed to pierce her. "Not yet, my dear avatar. But soon."
Before Asami could answer, her father materialized behind her. "Asami," he hissed, expression wild. "What are you doing dressed like that?! Wipe that paint off your face. No - go home and change at once!"
Asami didn't understand, but she'd never seen her father like this before. She excused herself to the man dressed like Amon, and headed toward the doors.
If she were really Avatar Kyoshi, she wouldn't stand for this injustice.
When the full moon was at its zenith, Korra's eyes glowed with a bright blue light, and a mystic wind surrounded her.
When the wind faded, Asami found herself standing next to Avatar Aang.
He was tall, statuesque. Majestic, even.
He looked at Asami, and broke into a clownish grin. "Hi! You must be Asami. Korra's told me a lot about you."
"Aang?" Master Katara's voice was filled with more love and longing than Asami had ever heard.
"Sweetie!" He exclaimed, gathering her into his arms. They kissed, and Asami tried not to think about the fact that it was Korra's lips against Katara's.
She cleared her throat. "Avatar Aang? Is there a reason you're here?"
The old avatar set Katara upright again, and then rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. "Sorry, I'm here to deliver a message to Korra's chosen. I guess that's you."
Asami blinked. "Her what?"
Aang got shifty-eyed. "It's kind of an avatar thing. Our heart chooses one person we trust more than anyone else. Katara was mine," he smiled at his wife.
"And I'm… Korra's?"
"Yep!" Aang said, a bit too cheerily.
Asami took a deep breath, determined that she would do her best by Korra. Forever.
This was her penance and redemption. A way to make up for her father's deeds.
"What's the message?"
Aang was suddenly deadly serious. "This solstice marks a shift in the Spirit World. Korra is there now. She has a battle to fight. Until it's over, she won't wake up. You'll need to keep her body safe. It's her way back to this world."
He looked to Katara, and they spoke without speaking.
"I'll show her how," Katara promised Aang.
Aang nodded. "I love you. I have to go now. Korra needs me."
His form melted away in a swirl of arctic wind, and only Korra remained.
Eyes closed, she pitched forward into Asami's arms.
"I love you," Katara whispered to the stars after Aang's departure.
But Asami didn't hear. She was too busy lowering Korra gently to the ground, smoothing her hair away from her face.
She would not fail.
"I'll be here when you wake up," she promised, as if Korra only slept.