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|All Good Things: Comrades|
Friday, February 19, 2016
"What are you doing?" Aroma asked Euryale, still leaning against the desk, still wringing her hands and shivering like a leaf in the wind.
The metalbender was on her hands and knees, rubbing her palms over the floor. Occasionally, she would punch the ground, sending a tremor through the room, rattling the gurneys before it ran up the walls.
"That is a valid question," Thiera added, switching off a burner that she was using to boil a bowl of water, "Also, don't you suppose that will attract unwanted attention?"
"We already know more enemies will be coming sooner or later," Euryale answered, "But at least I might be able to alert the other officers. It's a code that you need the seismic sense to understand, y'see."
"If they don't have too many problems of their own to deal with," Lilith noted, leaning on the counter next to Thiera, who sprinkled chalklike powder into the water before raising her hands, the liquid bubbling up into the air as an enormous floating globule.
Euryale scrunched her eyes. "Well—I guess that's true, yeah," she answered, looking up. "Now it's my turn to ask, what on earth is your sister doing?"
"This is the most efficient way to incapacitate this many Purists quickly," Thiera answered, rotating her hands around and around at different angles. The water orb responded by sloshing, diffusing the powder through every droplet of the sphere. She then spread her arms abruptly, causing it to break apart and rain throughout the room, forming short needles of ice which she guided to veins at each Purist's neck with precise twitches of her fingers. The final ice needle sank into Vyanna's, eliciting a slight groan, and they could see the powder pumping into her jugular as it melted. Thiera then strode over and set to healing the swelling on her head.
"I guess someone will come soon either way," Aroma said softly.
Sure enough, after they had tied the Purists all together in a ring in the corner using a cable of Euryale's, there came a pounding at the wall she had raised.
"It's me!" Saikhan's muffled voice called from outside, "Please open up!"
Breathing a sigh of relief, Euryale stomped, dropping the wall to allow Saikhan and a contingent of 6 metalbending officers pour in and survey the scene. "At ease," he said as he saw the girls all saluting him. Then he added, "We managed to send an emergency flare and got a response. The Chief'll be here soon. But that's the only good news. The Purist Leaders are still ransacking the holding cells, and any officers who try to go in there get picked off by that marksman."
"Take us there," Euryale said at once, followed just as swiftly by Aroma's cry of "No!"
Euryale turned, smiling weakly as she took her by the shoulders. "It'll be alright. We've handled ourselves pretty well so far, haven't we?" Aroma didn't answer, merely frowned and shuddered on the verge of tears. Euryale kissed her on the forehead, adding, "We'll be back before you know it."
"Just—just be careful," Thiera said.
"Hey," Lilith said with a laugh, "Who do you think you're talking to?"
Saikhan nodded, ordered his men to protect the healers, and headed out.
With that, the pair of women warriors followed Saikhan, Thiera breathing deeply before commanding the remaining officers, "Alright, I need half of you to accompany me. We need to retrieve the wounded and bring them in for treatment. The remaining trio of officers should stay here to guard Aroma and the interns."
Half of the officers saluted and ran out, Thiera close at their heels. Supported by the intern sisters and unwilling to look, Aroma gasped at her own feet, "N—not you t—too!"
"Where's Rakshashi?!" Chief Lin Beifong snapped over her blaring sirens as she weaved through traffic, the smoggy sky of the industrial sector looming just over the suspension bridge.
"I don't know," Kali answered, sitting inside the squad car's caged back, "But there's the train."
She pointed through the bars to a long, low-slung, and dark shape, most of which was just outside of the city limits.
Sitting across from her, arms folded, Keter opened her eyes. "They must have blocked the tracks somehow."
"I had realized that," Lin said, annoyed, reluctantly adding, "But—thank you, Candidate Councilwoman."
Keter nodded imperiously, heedless of Lin and Franz scowling in the rear view. The instant they were off the bridge, the chief pulled down an alley leading to the train yard; a labyrinth of railways, train cars, and towers, some with tall smoke stacks blackening the already inky sky. After she pulled up alongside the main tracks, the quartet stepped out and the chief stomped on the rails, listening for a few seconds.
"The tracks were definitely bombed. Most of the fighting is going on near the front. Kali! You go with Ms. Aurora, Chairman Franz, you're with me!"
Nodding, the firebenders literally rocketed to the roof of the train and began running across, while the chief peered into the nearest door, before motioning Franz to follow. She tapped the lock, which clicked, allowing the pair to head inside.
No sooner had the firebenders seen them disappear than a jet of fire came rocketing down from a watch tower. Feeling the warm air brush through her hair, Keter casually backhanded the fireball, extinguishing it without looking. "Something is wrong," she commented with a sidelong glance at Kali, "That was unmistakably a firebending attack, albeit a pathetic one."
Sure enough, the yard was soon crisscrossed with streams of fire, both from assailants hidden in the watch towers and red-coated men ducking in and out of the rusted, haphazardly parked train cars. Kali stepped forward, drew her weapons from her back to swat them aside, then fired a bolt of lightning out of the right rod. Keter joined in with a blast of her own and they swept a wave of crackling plasma across the train yard, causing those who didn't immediately fall to the ground twitching to flee.
"Perhaps the Agni Kais noticed an easy target and stole it from the Purists," Keter suggested, turning to fire another blast at the nearest watch tower, "Or perhaps your Chief's belief that the tracks were bombed was mistaken."
"Don't let her hear you say that," Kali answered dryly, assisting Keter by spinning her right-hand weapon, spraying the towers with small fireballs. "Speak of the Dark Spirit."
More firebenders were backing out of the train, chased out by flailing whips of water and steel. Alongside Chief Beifong was Franz, saber drawn and covered in an undulating coat of liquid flowing from a water skin attached to the guard.
Moving her arm in a circle, Keter gathered a pulsing mass of electricity and shot it into the crowd of Agni Kais, causing them all to drop, convulsing, and Franz to jump back, looking around in alarm.
"I saw that you needed help," Keter explained coolly, folding her arms as he scowled up at her.
Just then, an arc of light flashed over the downtown area, far outshining the dimming evening sun, as well as the shimmering, golden white disc rising above the horizon.
"An emergency flare!" Lin gasped. "We've been set up!"
"I'll see if I can't rouse some of the mooks, find out if they know anything about this," Kali said, climbing down the nearest hatch.
"Very good. Now, we'll need a response, something HQ will recognize has to be us, so—"
Keter stepped forward and punched her fist into the sky, launching a plume of blue flame high into the air, which exploded into dazzling sparkles.
"Well, yes," Lin muttered, "Like that. Thank you for volunteering...Ms. Fire Candidate."
"We have wasted too much time already," Keter commented, re-crossing her arms, "We should quickly locate an airship. Chief, is the Earth Delegate safe?" She glanced over in the first acknowledgment that she was aware Lin Beifong was present.
"Yes, he is, but you are hardly in a position to be giving orders!" she barked at Keter, eyes so narrow they were scarcely open.
For her part, Keter drummed her fingers against her left arm and stared nonchalantly back, raising an eyebrow. "Am I wrong?"
"I'll go get him," Lin grumbled, heading back into the train. "The radio still works, so we should be able to call an airship, no problem."
Saikhan, Euryale, and Lilith peeked around the doorway to the prison blocks, seeing a group of officers scatter as an exploding bolt landed where they stood seconds ago.
"Judging by the trajectory and speed, if he's using 1 of those firebows you described, Ivan's on the top floor," Lilith assessed.
"We'll never make it up there!" Euryale hissed. "The second he spots us, we'll have to be peeled off of a wall!"
"I think we'll be fine, if we just stick to all of those smoke clouds he's kicked up." The officers looked where she pointed to see that his exploding arrows had indeed generated several thick and dark clouds, curling around the walkways and up to the ceiling high above. "Follow my lead," she added, and they nodded.
Lilith waited until a shot sounded above them—doubtless a squad had tried to come in from the roof—and her 2 comrades followed her as she ran to a plume of dust. Euryale grabbed her around the waist as they used their cables to repel up the wall.
The cloud cover lasted for 2 floors before curling in the wrong direction, forcing Euryale and Saikhan to help it along. Landing on the walkway, they thrust their palms out, causing the smoke to billow upwards and drift out in Ivan's direction. They could see the ex-soldier squinting at the scrambling police below, picking them off with a repeating bow, a kind of box that fired another arrow with each pull of the trigger.
They climbed the remaining floors, and once they were on level with Ivan, his steely blue eyes perked at the smoke wafting in front of him. Realizing something was wrong, he whirled around, but too late, as Euryale swiped her arm, using her bending to wrench the bow out of his hand and crush it in midair by clenching her fist.
Saikhan swung a cable at him, but he pulled a smaller bow from his right side, shooting the Deputy Chief square in the chest. Instead of a point, the arrow had some kind of magnetized battery head with exposed wires. A second of electric buzzing later, the officer crumpled to the ground, though Euryale could still feel his heartbeat thudding through her feet.
As he fell, the cable sheared the Purist's mask, which fell in tatters, revealing that Ivan's face was gaunter than his tall, muscled frame would suggest. His hair had thinned and was frizzled by the mask, but was essentially the same dark turtleduck tail style that had been reported.
"Looks like a one-time trick!" Euryale called triumphantly, hurling the crumpled ball of steel and swinging another cable at him, both of which he ducked.
"Not exactly," he commented blandly, pulling a small plastic firebow from behind his back. Euryale tried to deflect the bolt by smacking the shaft with her forearm, but to her surprise, it exploded into smoke. As she coughed, trying to wave it out of her face, Ivan grabbed her cable and heaved with all of his might, sending her stumbling over the 5th floor railing.
"Euryale!" Lilith screamed, darting to grab the railing and peer over, but fortunately her worries were misplaced: Euryale quickly reshaped her line to hook onto a lower bannister, which snapped, but nonetheless allowed her to swing more-or-less harmlessly onto ground level.
Lilith looked to her side to see Ivan pointing the reloaded bow at her, but this arrowhead was a much thicker, sharper steel model.
"There's still time to join us," he commented, "We have use for skilled, pure citizens like you."
"You mean you're so desperate for members that you're willing to interview your enemies in the heat of battle," Lilith spat, "How well'd that work out last time your little gang tried it?"
"As far as strategies go, arguing that I should kill you isn't the best," he shot back, "But then again, you always were the act-first-think-never type."
"Why'd you do it, Ivan?" Lilith asked wistfully, "Why didn't you come ask someone for help? I would've helped you—so would Commander Bumi, and a ton of others!"
"Would you? Nobody bothered to find me after I went missing." Snickering, he added, "For all you know, I could've been swept up by some violent street gang. Not that it matters anymore. You'll never close the distance on me before I can pull the trigger. So if that's your final answer, then goodbye, Lilith."
His finger tightened. Lilith grabbed the sword at her belt and twisted, hoping her aim was half as good as Ivan's. A loud bang sounded and she felt bristles brush her hair as Ivan's hand jerked upward. Against all odds, she had managed to hit the firebow with her sheath.
She then shot forward, swinging at Ivan's head, turning her blade aside at just as it clipped his hair. In that exact moment, he ducked, stabbing at her arm with the point at the end of his off-hand weapon and whipping the other at her face. Lilith leaned back and put her foot against his chest. Arching her sword up behind her, she stabbed it in the crack of a cell door to brace herself and pushed with all of her might. Ivan stumbled back, and she quickly wrenched her sword back out and batted his weapons out of his hands.
He glanced at them spiraling off of the balcony before withdrawing a curved plastic knife from his belt and aiming for Lilith's throat, but she grabbed his arm, turned, and slammed him stomach-first into the railing. She slipped the sword, dull-side up, under his arms and across his chest, then leaned against his back, pinning him.
"Forget it, Ivan. It's over."
"I won't be caged like an animal!" he snarled. "Least of all by freaks who oppress normal citizens!"
"You don't really have a say in the matter," Lilith commented dryly.
Ivan grew passive as he stared into the smoggy pit of the prison. He began to giggle in a low, hollow tone that made Lilith's stomach turn over. "So you're saying this is where I fall, huh?" She really did not like the way he said that. "In that case, ladies first!"
She felt him grip the waistline of her pants, using the leverage to lean over the railing, and they both plummeted, Ivan continuing to laugh and Lilith giving in to her urge to scream as the tombstone-gray concrete rushed toward them at an alarming pace.
Fortunately, Euryale had been running across the 3rd floor balcony. Seeing Lilith falling to her doom, she shot a cable around her chest and yanked her to safety. They turned away from where Ivan lay crumpled awkwardly beneath them as Lilith caught her breath.
"Where've you been?!" Lilith gasped, incensed.
Euryale swung yet another cable, Lilith turning to watch it wrap around the waist of a Purist at the far end of the balcony who was aiming a fire tosser into the peephole of a cell. She then slammed him into the walkway above and back to the ground, stunning him before whipping again, destroying his weapon.
"It's hard work putting out fires without a waterbender, but if someone didn't do it, it wouldn't matter whether or not you beat Ivan!"
"I wondered why there weren't more Purists in here," Lilith admitted, turning sharply back to her, "But that means they'll be heading for Thiera!"
Nodding, Euryale yelled to the officers regrouping below them, "Deputy Chief Saikhan is knocked out on the top floor! Make sure he's safe and the Purists are secured! Then stand by 'til he wakes up to await his orders! We'll pursue the Purist Leader!"
Once she finished, the groups exchanged a salute, before the girls ran down the stairs and back into the halls of headquarters.
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