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|B2 Chapter Ten: Rescue|
The very first sensation Nanaki became cognizant of was a muttering ache in the side of her head that refused to show any signs of debating and a gentle back and forth swaying motion. The palms of her hands were very gently patting against something soft and luxurious. She thought of a beach, a wonderful pristine white beach where she was being rocked to sleep by an ocean with her mother's voice. Opening her eyes she was confused to see nothing but grey beyond her arms, which were extended over her head. The confusion evaporated when she saw that her wrists were cuffed by secure handcuffs.
Turning her head, she saw the world was upside down. The dazzling luminescence of daylight was arcing and curving around odd shapes, shapes that soon materialized into the parked forms of Satomobiles in neat rows. Then came perfectly clarity and she realized she was street level in an underground parking garage, the grey she had seen was the floor of the structure, and that she was slung over Po's massive shoulder. She heard the opening of a car door and began to struggle.
Po threw her into the back seat, leering at the cry of pain she gave when the back of her head collided with the opposite door. He slammed the door shut and got into the driver's seat.
"Where are you taking me?" Nanaki demanded, fighting against her handcuffs.
"No no no," Po said, smirking and cocking his head at the handcuffs. "No bending for you. And where I'm taking you, nobody will find you until the next time you reincarnate into the Earth Kingdom."
He found his own comment to be excitingly funny, and chuckled as he started the engine and pulled the car out in reverse. He threw it into gear and started driving toward the street exit. Hissing through her teeth, Nanaki jerked and yanked at the handcuffs for another second before realizing the gesture was futile. She glared at Po's eyes, which were watching her struggle reflected in the rear view mirror.
"Out of tricks?" he asked.
Nanaki scrunched her face up tightly in fury, looked at the door at her feet, and whipped both knees up to her chest. She kicked out with both of her strong legs, the soles of her feet emitting a roar of noise and a blistering gour of heat as flames exploded out of them and took the door off of its hinges, sending it completely across the garage. Nanaki flipped over and rolled out of the car, coming down hard on her side and rolling. The Sato's rear tire missed going over her by inches. Cursing, Po slammed on the brakes.
Nanaki was on her feet before the car came to a complete stop, sprinting back in the direction of the building. Po came out of the car like a furious komodorhino behind her, crashing after her and losing sight of her when she ducked between a pair of parked autos. Swearing under his breath Po cocked his head and listened, and presently caught the very faint inhalation and exhalation of breath. He stooped, grabbed the front end of the Sato immediately to his left and picked the front end straight up over his head, leaning the vehicle at a sharp angle backwards on its two rear tires.
Nanaki squirreled out between his legs but rather than keep going she stopped. She snapped her knee up again and pistoned her leg out, her foot connecting to the meaty portion of Po's leg behind his knee. The huge man bellowed in rage and pain as his leg gave out, causing him to crash backwards to the ground. He gasped and rolled just in time to avoid the Satomobile he had been holding coming down on top of him.
Slamming his fist into the ground and shrieking half a dozen horrible ways to end the Avatar he got to his feet and drew his pistol from his coat.
"Enough of this," Po yelled, looking this way and that for the tiny slip of a girl that had made his comfortable life such hell for the past two months. She had vanished again.
In fact, Nanaki was crouched down behind a concrete support pillar not twelve feet to Po's immediate left. She brought her hands up to her face and quickly inspected the cuffs on her wrists. She extended her right index finger and then cocked it downward and sent a thin, aggressively hot jet of flame to the chain holding the cuffs together. The chain melted into slag instantly and her hands were free.
Unfortunately, Po had seen the quick blue-white flash and heard the brief hiss of flame. He swiveled with an acrobat's grace and sent two bullets into the pillar, forcing Nanaki to cry out in surprise. She ducked without the need to and then darted out from behind cover, crouching low and keeping a row of parked cars between her and the murderous giant.
Po tracked her, popping off shots that ruptured the windshields of the cars that were keeping Nanaki from being a clear and easy target. Glass rained down on Nanaki's head. She threw her hands up to protect herself from the glass but at the same time kept her cool, refusing to allow herself to panic as she skirted behind another pillar and pressed her back flat against it. She realized that she had cornered herself. There was nothing but a solid wall in front of her, and a quick glance from behind the pillar assured her that she had gone wholly in the wrong direction. The street exit was directly behind her, and Po was between herself and her escape.
Po knew it too. He ejected the spent clip of his firearm and snapped in a fresh one, then fired three bullets into the pillar to keep the Avatar pinned down.
"Nowhere left for you to go, honey," he crooned. "Just come out and let's get this over with."
Nanaki leaped out from behind the pillar, landing first on her rear foot and then on her front into a flawless Bow Stance. At the same instant she thrust both arms straight out, one fist on top of the other. A stegosaurus' back of concrete spines erupted from the floor and raced at Po at breakneck speed. Po gave a shout of shock and surprise and threw his massive bulk to one side. The earth attack sped past him and sliced the car behind in half lengthwise.
The Avatar kept moving on the diagonally toward another pillar. She threw her body into a spin, revolving her hands over her head. Po didn't have time to catch his breath before a massive section of the concrete roof above him cracked and gave way, hurtling down toward him. Po threw himself across the hood of another car as the freed chunk impacted into the ground where he had been standing with such force that it fragmented into powder.
Po sat down on the other side of the car he had vaulted and pressed his back up against the tire. He was aggravated, angry, and scared. Aggravated and angry because his oh so magnificent high brow boss couldn't be bothered to mention that the girl was a firebender, (it didn't occur to Po that Himaru may not have known that himself) and he was afraid because beyond the firebending she was an earthbender. She could turn this entire parking structure into a weapon against him, come at him from any angle, and her hands were free. He would have to draw her out and put a bullet into her before she got the chance.
"There's only one way this can end," he said loudly. "You're trapped, and there's no way you're getting by me. And even if you did, Avatar, I won't stop. I'll keep coming, and coming, and coming. Ya see, this ain't a job no more. This is personal now. You never know when it'll be. I could be the next knock on your front door. That engine you hear late at night might be my Sato. You'll never know. But I'll know. I'll go through everyone and everything I have to to get to you."
Around the pillar when Nanaki was hiding, she heard the tone of finality in his baritone and knew he wasn't bluffing. He wasn't going to stop, unless she made him, and the implication of how she would have to do that was clear. But she couldn't. Nanaki was the kind of girl that had never even entertained the idea of harming another living creature. She couldn't bring herself to kill a spider she found in her bathtub, much less another human being no matter how vile he may be. She squeezed her eyes shut as Po continued to taunt and mock, her brain desperate to think of some way out of this. She could slip by him, she was sure, but what about the next time, or the time after that? And what if next time his victim was Guo? Jinora? Or heaven forbid, Yi? What could she do? How could she live with herself? What was she supposed to do now?
Po raised himself up when he heard her stepped out from behind the pillar. He jumped up explosively and snapped his pistol down, but before he could get the shot off his gut bottomed out in sheer fear. She stood facing him, rage etched over her face, her eyes and hair and fingernails alive with the angelic radiance of the Avatar-State.
Nanaki extended the first and second fingers of each hand and began to sweep her hands in a low back and forth arc. Her fingertips sparked blue-white, and the sparks became comet trails of electricity, and the comet trails became a blast as she pointed not, at him he instantly realized, but at the car.
At the gas tank.
"Oh!" was the last word that Po ever uttered. He was atomized when the car and several others nearby to it detonated. Po Ming Lai would never again threaten the Avatar, or anyone else.
In the tumult that gripped the street after the explosion people ran pell-mell in all directions, called for friends or loved ones, or just stood dumbfounded trying to comprehend what had just happened. Kozin was one of the first back on his feet and wasted no time in helping Jinora get to hers. Together they looked at the podium and found that Himaru, his female assistant, and his retinue of bodyguards had disappeared. Jinora, fearing the worst for Nanaki, then ran toward the garage. The structure was still belching thick plumes of black smoke. The rest of the companions sprinted along beside and behind her. Calling out they waved the smoke and acrid smell out of their eyes, falling back against the blistering heat which rolled out to meet them. What they saw then would forever imprint itself on each of their memories and remain a vivid image for the rest of their lives.
Avatar Nanaki--green vest, white long-sleeved blouse, denim mini-skirt, black tights, green slip-on shoes—was at the heart of a demonic inferno and lit up with the Avatar-State. Her arms circled calmly as if she were conducting an orchestra and everywhere her hands shifted and swept the flames followed in long coils, cavorting around her like a pack of puppies that had just been adopted by a small child. She was keeping the explosion contained, drawing it together and dispelling it, preventing it from doing any further damage. Jintaro, looking on his daughter in such a spectacular phase, nearly sat down.
"Nannie!" Yi shrieked. Nanaki looked at them and without any pomp, without any protest, the harnessed explosion whispered out of existence. The Avatar-State followed a second later. Nanaki groaned and swayed. Her legs collapsed out from under her and she went downward. Jintaro was there before she hit the ground, calling her name repeatedly and peering anxiously into her face. After a few second she opened her eyes, looking at him in confusion.
He crushed her against himself, stroking the back of her head.
"Oh my girl, my beautiful beautiful girl. Thank goodness you're safe," he said, and kept saying it.
The others had a clear view of Nanaki's face from their vantage point over Jintaro's shoulder and had not the situation been so dire each one of them would have found her expression of pure surprise comical. When Jintaro began to kiss her temple and forehead she threw her arms around him and burst into tears.
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