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|A Rider in Full Part Two|
Book 2: War
October 19th, 2013
The Refugees strike back against the Equalists by attacking Future Industries, and learn a deadly new secret in the process.
The night sky was plastered red and orange, reflecting the light from the city. Lightning flashed through the clouds and a light rain fell as if to match the mood of the city. Every once in a while, the crack of a rifle echoed off of the buildings. Guards patrolled on the rooftops and the walls of the Borough, constantly scanning their areas for a threat. At each entrance to the Borough sat a sandbag barricade with a Vickers machine gun.
Out in the harbor, the black silhouette of the Isabella sat silent and vigilante, and ready to attack at a moment's notice. Earlier in the day, her machine guns had cut down several Equalist members that had attempted to hang banners from Avatar Aang's statute. Now she sat in darkness, hiding from sight as best as she could.
In the underground stage area, Korra sat with her back against Naga. Beside her, John slept with a blanket wrapped around him. He was tired, and as far as she was concerned he deserved the rest. Not too far away, a sleeping Asami leaned against Mako. The firebender still had the shotgun that John had given him earlier, laying it against his legs so it was within reach.
"Peaceful, isn't it?" Korra looked back at John, who was gazing at her with a soft expression. His brown eyes had lost the shine they contained when they had first met, but there was still warmth in them, enough to find comfort.
"What are you doing awake?" she asked. John opened the blanket, allowing her to share in the heat. Across from them, Bolin snored away on a crate, drool leaking from the corner of his mouth.
"Reflexes I guess. If I need to I can run off of a few hours of sleep," he replied. They sat in silence for a while, savoring the feeling of each other.
"What's your world like?" Korra asked. John cocked an eyebrow at her for a moment before he returned to staring at the ceiling.
"You've got to be more specific than that."
"I mean, you seem so used to all this, fighting a war and such." Sighing, the firebender looked at his pistol. The thought of explaining his home and his training had never crossed his mind.
"After the Great War, my dad took steps to insure that The Order would never experience a state of near extinction again. He made it more militant than it had been before, to the point that it was a world wide secret army," he said.
"Did you ever fight in a war before this one?" Korra froze when she saw John's face sink, fearing that she had crossed the line.
"Once. About a year before I came here." The Avatar looked away, planning on leaving him be. But she stopped when she heard him take a deep breath.
"The Chinese invaded Nepal, the country I was hiding in. There was no point in it, the people had done nothing wrong, but they needed a staging ground for their war with another country. After what I saw, it's not a surprise that I tried so hard to avoid this," he explained.
"Then why fight at all?" she asked.
"Korra, what I saw in Nepal doesn't change my beliefs. If anything, it steeled my resolve to keep people like Amon from achieving their goals. If not by peace, then by war, whatever it takes." At the entrance ramp, Leon discussed something quietly with one of his brothers before he crossed to John and Korra.
The Irish airbender had a Lee Enfield on a sling over his shoulder and a gas mask sitting on top of his head. This made him appear more goofy than what the seriousness on his face would have desired.
"John, they got Chief Beifong," he said as he came to a halt. In a flash, John was on his feet pacing back and forth. His pistol was in his hand while his fingers tapped against the metal of the grip.
"How the hell did that happen? She was suppose to stay with Tenzin!"
"Apparently she fought off some airships that were trying to capture them and she was overrun." John smashed a crate with his foot, allowing flames to burst out in all directions from the strike. The noise woke Asami and Bolin, causing the latter to fall off of his crate. The flaming ruins of the box glowed brighter with each anger filled inhale that the firebender took.
"Is there any sighting of the United Forces?" he finally asked.
"Rumors mainly, some vague reports about some ships near the entrance of the harbor but nothing conclusive." John sighed again before he twirled his pistol and returned it to his holster.
"Alright, we're on our own. First thing we need to do is take out their production center for the Mecha Tanks," he said.
"Out of all the factories in the city, the only one that is still active is Future Industries. Looks like at least one production line has been converted to make the tanks," Leon said.
"That's it then, Korra and Asami will come with me, Leon you take Mako and Bolin. We'll get some detonators rigged up and blow that place to hell."
The evening storm had passed and a cool morning sun looked down upon Republic City. Fires that had broken out during the Equalist attack had gone out thanks to the storm. On the south entrance to the borough, two trucks sat ready to move. The lead truck, which contained Asami and Korra, had an MG 08/15 mounted in the bed.
Nearby John, Leon, and Mako discussed the plan one final time. Both John and Mako had satchels full of explosives over their shoulders. They had agreed to follow Asami's lead, as she had the most knowledge of the Future Industries complex. After a quick fist bump, the three hurried to their vehicles. Mako and John climbed into the back of their trucks, while Leon slid across the hood.
Cocking the machine gun, John took a firm grip and braced as the truck began to move. Beyond the gate and the moat, bullet holes lined the walls of the buildings. The occasional blood trail made it clear that the Equalists had sustained casualties during the night. Asami turned left, and then right again, navigating them through the run down buildings.
Glancing toward the rooftops, John spotted a single Equalist watching the small convoy. He didn't open fire, just watched in return and took care to flip the bird before they rounded a corner.
"Keep your eyes open, you two. The Equalists are watching, and more than likely know we're coming," he said, leaning down to speak through the empty back window to the two young women sitting the cab. Asami nodded quickly before she made another left turn.
There, several blocks ahead of them sat a Satomobile that had been rolled out as a barricade. At a hundred yards John opened fire. The machine gun rounds tore through the light metal of the car, riddling the metal with holes. One of the bullets smashed into an explosive charge left behind on the side of the engine block, causing the charge to detonate and throw the vehicle into the air. It smashed down into one of the buildings, clearing the path for the trucks to make it through.
Finally, they cleared the buildings and the massive frame of Future Industries sat before them. Mecha Tanks were rolling out of the factory floor, coming to the defense of the plant. Seeing the metal beasts, Asami let her foot off of the gas, causing the vehicle to slow down.
"Speed it up, sister!" came John's shout from the bed, just before he opened fire with the machine gun again. Rounds pinged off of the platinum armor of the lead tank before they found their target in the form of the suit's visor. The tank reared back and collapsed, sealing its fate.
Behind them, Leon swung his own vehicle out from behind and pulled up beside theirs. Mako let loose a bolt of lightning at another one of the tanks, causing it's joints to seize up and shut down the machine all together. Asami floored it, causing the truck to race past the remaining tanks and into the open hanger like door they had left behind.
Inside, they found that one of the two assembly lines had been converted to make the tanks. The other sat dormant, with the bodies of Satomobiles still waiting to be built. Asami slammed on the breaks and spun the wheel, causing the truck to skid to a halt. John brought his machine gun around and opened fire at the feet of the workers, causing them to scatter in fright.
"Bolin, with me!" Leon shouted as he barreled out of his own truck, sprinting towards the heart of the factory. The earthbender ran after him, Mako's bag of explosives securely wrapped around his neck. Behind them, two mecha tanks entered the factory. John quickly spun around and took aim, planning to bring a quick end to these two. Squeezing the trigger, he was met not with the usual noise and motion of the weapon firing, but with a spine chilling click. The machine gun had jammed.
"You two, out!" he shouted, struggling with the action in an effort to get the weapon working again. Following his order, Korra and Asami bailed out of the truck, running for safety from the advancing mecha tanks. The firebender continued to pound on the weapon, totally unaware of the tank until he glanced up just in time to see it come to a halt.
The tank swung its arm around, sending John, the truck, and the machine gun all flying in different directions. Seeing what had happened, Mako ran from his truck and brought up the shotgun.
"Slide the action back, pull it forward, line up sight with target and," he said to himself before he squeezed the trigger. The twelve gauge bucked, causing Mako to better his stance before he fired again and again at the nearest mecha tank. Buckshot slammed into the armor and visor, causing the Equalist pilot to reel back and defend himself. But he overdid the controls in his blind panic, and the metal beast collapsed onto its side.
Mako barely had time to celebrate his victory as an electrified bola slammed into him, sending him flying back into the truck door. The remaining tank turning its upper body so that it was facing Korra and Asami.
"What are you doing Asami? This is your family's legacy you're trying to destroy!" Korra recognized the voice, it belonged to Asami's father, Hiroshi. Although the mecha tank he piloted garbled his speech a bit, it was still him without a doubt.
"It's not my family's legacy, not if it's being used like this!" Asami shouted back at her father. Korra instinctively moved herself in front of the non bender, determined to protect her to the best of her ability.
"Perhaps Amon can change your mind," Hiroshi said as the arm on his tank raised, preparing to fire another electrified bola at his daughter and the Avatar. Korra brought her hands up into a bending position, ready to counterattack. Bullets suddenly pinged off of the metal, causing Hiroshi to bring the metal arms of the suit up to protect the visor.
Turning, Korra saw John advancing on the mecha tank, firing a constant burst into the machine with the machine gun he had managed to unjam. The look in his eyes was that of anger and determination. Hiroshi's tank rolled backwards at full speed, trying to distance itself from the raging machine gun fire.
Finally, the tank turned and fled. John allowed the gun to clatter to the factory floor, empty with its barrel smoking. The smell of gunpowder filled the air, but above that was the smell of burnt flesh. Clutching his left hand, the one he had been gripping the barrel with, John made his way over to free Mako's restraints.
"Are you alright John?" Korra asked, concerned.
"Nothing a little healing powers can't fix," came the reply as he finished cutting the wire and haled Mako to his feet. Together, the group made their way into the factory. Occasionally, John would stop and place a charge next to the hulk of a mecha tank or hidden just inside the skeleton of a Satomobile.
Above them in the foreman's office, Leon and Bolin could be seen working on what appeared to be a remote detonator. Just after setting another charge, Leon appeared on the balcony of the office. He looked panicked and wild eyed, his chest heaving.
"John! Thirty seconds to big bang!" he shouted. Fear seized the firebender's heart, but he acted on pure instinct as he threw away the satchel bag and sprinted for a nearby bit that allowed crews to work on the under carriage of the vehicles. Mako had already grabbed Asami and thrown her into another pit, but Korra still looked confused as she tried to process what was happening.
At the opposite end of the factory, the explosives began to detonate, sending balls of fire along the two production lines. Leon and Bolin jumped away from the balcony as their own bag of explosives ignited, tearing the office apart like it was paper. On the floor, John tackled Korra, sending the two of them toppling into the service pit. Behind them another charge detonated, sending the body of a Satomobile flying through the air after them. It smashed down on top of the pit, just inches from their heads.
As quickly as they had begun, the explosions stopped, leaving behind silence and the crackle of flames. Korra and John coughed as they peeked their heads out of the pit. The assembly lines had been blown beyond recognition, leaving behind a pile of twisted scrap metal and patches of fire.
"Bolin, you alright?" came Mako's shout from somewhere to their right.
"I think I sprained my everything," came the whining cry of his brother from somewhere on the other side of the factory.
"You still with us Colonel darlin'?" came Leon's call, his voice sounding close to Bolin.
"We're still here." The two benders pulled themselves out of the pit, taking care not to cut themselves on remains of the lines. Across from them, Leon was standing on a pile of metal, his face covered in soot.
"What the hell happened?" John asked, throwing his hands in the air.
"The wrong wire got crossed, an honest mistake."
"Mistake?! That mistake damn near blew us sky high!"
"Hey! You can beat yourselves up later, right now you'd better see this." Mako said, motioning toward a small room just off of the main floor. Inside, they saw a single canvas and wood rectangle sitting against a wall. They noticed the look of horror and recognition that was plastered across the two Refugees' faces.
"What? What is it?"
"It's an airplane wing. Your father is developing the first fighters and bombers for this world," Leon explained. Inhaling deeply, John brought his temper back under control.
"We need to get back to the borough and warn the United Forces," he said. Picking their way out of the remains of the factory, the group was surprised to find that one of the trucks had survived. With Asami once again behind the wheel, they began to speed back toward the safety of the borough. Mako and Leon were jammed into the cab, while Korra, John, and Bolin held on in the bed.
Behind them, two pairs of Equalists riding on motorcycles appeared out of an alleyway. They swerved back and forth, gaining on the lumbering truck. John and Korra turned, sending bolts of fire toward the Equalists. The bikers easily dodged the incoming bolts of fire, weaving about with expert motion.
Drawing his pistol, John fired at the closest Equalist. As the slide locked back on the weapon, the Equalist plunged from his bike causing two others to crash as well. Only one remaining rider continued on the chase, easily passing the truck. Ahead of them was the gate of the borough, but the rider didn't seem to care as he reached down and dropped a grenade.
Mako shot a bolt of lightning from the cab, taking out the last biker. But the grenade exploded under rear axle, causing the truck to pitch in the air. Korra, John, and Bolin flew through the air before the truck crashed down on its side, skidding a short distance before it came to a halt.
"I gotta stop fallin' out of stuff today," John muttered, lying on his back and staring at the sky. He grimaced in pain, realizing that his left arm was throbbing from the impact. Korra appeared in his line of sight, looking down at him with a worried expression. Her cheek was bruised, and a few gashes had appeared along her arms.
"Can you walk?" she asked.
"Should be able to," he replied before he allowed her to hale him to his feet. John cried out in pain at this, almost losing his footing as the pain temporarily blinded him.
"John, John what's wrong?"
"My arm is dislocated," he said through clenched his teeth. Looking up, he caught sight of the barricade for the first time. The machine gun and its crew was missing, and sandbags were scattered all over the place. Smoke poured into the sky from beyond the wall, adding to the unease of the group.
"We've barely been gone for an hour, there's no way they were overrun that fast," Leon said as he limped past, his rifle at the ready. Inside the wall, they found that it wasn't buildings that were on fire, but equipment that the Refugees had burned to keep the Equalists from getting.
"John," Mako said as he stopped in a booth by the gate. He held up a small piece of paper before he began to read.
"Equalists attacked in force. All gates are being overrun. Protocol Seven issued and equipment burned, Roland," he said.
"What's Protocol Seven?" Asami asked.
"A last resort. If the walls are being overrun we are to retreat to the sewers and continue the fight as a guerrilla force," Leon explained.
"We need to find them, and get a warning out now before it's too late."
Author's Notes & Trivia
John's burns that he sustains were inspired by that of the real life actions of John Basilone during the Battle of Guadalcanal. Sergeant Basilone picked up his machine gun during the night and used it to hold off a massive Japanese assault sustaining severe burns on his hands due to the heat of the barrel. He was awarded the Metal of Honor for his actions.
For the collective works of the author, go here.