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Chapter 6: Aftershocks
Aang sat across from Appa, who was splayed out on the stable floor, unease filling his heart. That, he decided, and fear.
Guilt...guilt was yet another emotion he held. So many, and they all vied for control. Appa, his friend, his lifelong companion, was sick. Very sick, and Aang was sure that it was his fault. He'd been pushing him for days, and it appeared that, according to the healers within the tribe and his own analysis, such prodding and constant flying had depleted Appa's strength and leaving him susceptible to the illness that now plagued him.
That fact led to yet another unsettling notion. With Appa out of commission, for Aang had no intention of leaving his friend, he would not be able to return to Republic City, to his children.
He buried his head in his hands. When they need me the most, I can't be there for them!
Tenzin's eyes snapped open as sunlight penetrated the window, blanket still draped over his body.
Wait...blanket?! I did not have this last night! He stood abruptly and whipped his head toward the bed. "Wait...where—?"
"She's downstairs eating breakfast." Kyani leaned against the doorframe. "I'm covering for you, and she is covering for you!" The swordsman whirled around. "You'd best get down there and start explaining."
"Yeah...right..." I'm not even sure what's going on!
Tenzin did as instructed and made his way to the banquet hall. There he did indeed find Pema, as well as virtually everyone else that was staying at the tower.
"Good morning, all." He said nervously.
"Good morning, Tenzin." Ty Lee smiled. "It seems that your sleeping in has caused your friend here to introduce herself."
Pema swallowed the piece of turtle duck she'd been chewing on and smiled. "Yes, I told them my name and my...acquaintance with you."
"And we're happy to have you. A friend of Tenzin's is welcome anytime." Sora gave her a genuine smile before turning to her twin. "May I speak with you, privately?"
"You went against my instructions, Chief Bei Fong!" Kiryu Iran cried. "I told you, in no uncertain terms, to wait until we had viable evidence before going in after these so-called 'Equalists'."
Toph snorted. "We gave you plenty of evidence, and you refused to act on it, Governor-General. I did what I had to do to prevent violence and anarchy."
The official's eyes narrowed. "You are aware that I could have you fired for this, I assume?"
Toph grinned. "But you won't. Not only am I indispensable in this position, I am also a member of the City Council. It would look bad on your administration if you were to fire me for doing something that should've been done weeks ago."
Iran sighed. "In the future, I would appreciate it if you would inform me of this sort of thing beforehand, for efficiency's sake."
"Speaking of efficiency," Toph began, "Why don't you put some of those airships to good use by allowing my men to use them as launching points. It would allow them to regain the edge they've lost recently."
He shook his head. "I'm afraid that we can't re-task resources like that. I do apologize, but we're strapped enough as it is."
Toph smiled. "I understand. Times are tough." She turned to leave, but stopped and turned right back around. "Coincidentally, Solf Koruhagi managed to evade capture. Does your office know any more about their operations than mine?"
Iran shook his head. "Of course not. Why would you assume I would know anything about your operation?"
"Well, I thought since you've been so keen on getting involved in the way I run my ops that you might have some info for me." She grinned and whirled away. "My mistake."
The door closed behind her, and Kiryu Iran stood still for a moment, hands behind his back.
"She knows something." Solf Koruhagi opened the hidden door in the wall. "I told you that you should've dealt with her."
The Governor-General smiled, his demeanor changing from a disheveled incompetent to ruthlessly efficient. "She suspects something. Toph Bei Fong is not going to be a problem. I can deal with her in a non-violent manner; you're just lucky that you escaped from Gareth. Few have faced him and lived."
The silver-haired man snorted. "Easy for you to say; you don't have to do any fighting."
Iran chuckled. "I have already fought and proven my worth. It is your men who need to prove themselves. Regardless, when the time comes, I will fight again. You don't need to worry about that."
"I don't have many men left." Solf replied ruefully. "That's why I'm here. I need some of yours to deal with a little pest control problem."
Tenzin slid down against the wall, waiting for Sora to state her peace. Or her anger, one or the other.
"I meant what I said." Sora crossed her arms.
Tenzin raised an eyebrow. "What?"
"To Pema. I meant it when I said she was welcome here. She's had it rough."
"I hear a 'but'..." Tenzin replied.
Sora nodded. "But...you tell her everything, and then the two of you will tell us everything, including Mrs. Bei Fong."
The Airbender shuddered. "Fine. But I want to ensure Pema's safety."
She nodded once more. "So do I."
Tenzin began to grin, and Sora furrowed her brow. "What are you planning?"
"It's not a plan; it's my final condition."
"And that would be...?"
"You're going to be the one to tell both Mom and Dad about the whole Bloodbending thing."
Sora shook her head. "I...I can't. Besides, I told you already, it was just a dream."
Tenzin stood and leaned in close to his sister. "It wasn't a request."
"Tenzin, I hope I'm not interrupting anything." Pema occupied the hall near the doorway to the Banquet Hall. "But can I talk to you?"
Kiryu Iran ushered Solf Koruhagi through his facility, a little out of the way location that he had been using to train his Equalists from day one.
"These are the elite." Iran smirked. "They are not greenhorn initiates like your men, and I can assure you that neither the Brotherhood nor Toph Bei Fong know of this place."
Koruhagi smiled wickedly as he watched the men before him train. They appeared ruthless and efficient. "Which ones will I have the pleasure of leading?"
"Ah, ah, ah, Koruhagi...first I want to know what they're being asked to do."
"Why, bring down the Brotherhood and the traitors who ratted us out, of course."
"The children that you allowed into your facility were the son of Avatar Aang and the son of Grand Lotus Sokka. And they didn't betray your location, or... at least it wouldn't have mattered if they did. Chief Bei Fong has known about the warehouse for weeks, and I had been trying to keep her from moving against you." He sighed. "But I suppose her attack was inevitable..."
"So...can I have the men or not?"
"Patience, Solf. You will have your men, but I have a few ground rules to lay down. You use them to go after the Brotherhood first and foremost, and you leave the two boys alone, at least for now. The last thing we need is for the Avatar to come back and destroy our operations."
Koruhagi bowed. "I believe I can do that."
Tenzin and Pema walked down the hall, each one unsure of what to say to the other.
The Airbender decided to let her speak first. "Look, Tenzin...I can't...can't thank you enough for saving my life, but I can't stay."
He nodded. "You want to go back to the warehouse..."
"Mm-hm, I need to help my friends rebuild."
Tenzin sighed. This would be difficult. "Pema, there's nothing to go back to. You have to know that. The police and the Brotherhood wiped everything out."
She glanced off to the side. "Well, I can't just leave—!"
"You don't understand." Tenzin cupped her face in his hands. "Solf is most likely dead, and your friends are either dead as well, or in prison. There is nothing you can do."
Tears filled her eyes as she shook her head. "No! That can't be it! They're all I had left!"
The young Airbender winced. "I am sorry, Pema..." He wrapped his arms around her, a simple gesture of both compassion and protection. "But you aren't alone. We will be here for you."
"Why are you doing this?" She asked quietly.
"Because...because you're my friend." He pulled away, still grasping her shoulders. "Stay with us; at least until we figure things out. Please..."
She nodded silently, and Tenzin offered his hand and a smile. "Now, come on, we have to make arrangements with everyone." And I have to have a very unpleasant conversation with Mrs. Bei Fong...
Solf Koruhagi spun the shikkar on its tip as the men lined up before him. Twenty of Kiryu Iran's best stood there now.
"Your orders, sir?"
The Equalist leader smiled. "It seems we have a two-headed unagi to deal with. Our first objective is crushing the Brotherhood of Elements for their place in the attack on our warehouse!" He sneered. "The second would be the children of the Avatar and their friends. They sold us out, and I want payback."
"What would you have us do?"
Solf grinned wickedly. "Simple. We test the water before jumping in."
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