|http://i1074.photobucket.com/albums/w406/pepperJack633/Banner3_zps0906bab5.png||By The Faceless One||Genre||Rating||Reviews||Updates|
|More from The Faceless One||Science Fiction/Adventure||PG-13||Positive||This chapter is 100% complete!|
|Beneath the Waves|
The Faceless One
January 1st, 2013
Fire... Air... Water... Earth. Currently, the four nations are enjoying a timely era of peace, but this was not always the nature of things. Half a century ago, the last and final Avatar, a waterbender named Korra, vanquished a maniacal extremist who called himself Amon, and hoped to rid the world of bending forever. Sadly, shortly after this triumph, Korra was killed by an illness in her sleep, and, for reasons unknown, was not reincarnated. Though at first her immediate absence was met with worldwide panic, this reaction was short-lived. As the years passed, the wounds left by her disappearance scabbed over, and have now all but faded entirely. Now, is an era of science, and it appears... spiritual figures such as the Avatar are no longer needed to maintain balance. However, there are some that say this peace is the calm before a great storm, one that, if the Avatar fails to return, will reduce the world to ashes. But these few are surely out of their minds. Surely.
Previously... On Avatar: Advent of Earth
After a comment from Ying convinced Chen to take another shot at Tara, Min decided to intervene, and a fight soon ensued. Shortly after, Chen met with Tara at a movie theater, but only to be kidnapped by a stranger seconds later! Chen eventually discovered this mystery man to be Councilman Bolin, a once-great politician and pro-bender. Bolin told Chen that in order to save his own life, the boy would have to bring Avatar Korra back from the dead.
NOTE: It is strongly recommended that, before you begin reading this chapter, you take a look at Advent of Earth's special "12-12-12". The continuity between these is very high. Also, for some people who started reading before November 17th, an extended ending has been added to Courting the Wind in preparation for my BSST review by Minnichi. Please also look over this before reading chapter 4.
Monday, September 26th, 2072 AD
Kirima hadn't meant to kill the men. It had been nothing more than a reflex—a subconscious reaction. However, this fact did little to calm her nerves. The blood had pooled on the floor now, and it trickled towards her feet as Kirima desperately tried to remember... What had happened to her? Where was she? She had been flying... a rocket, she seemed to recall. She and her teammates had been falling out of the sky, and she had saved them. And that's where it ended. When her mind turned to the events which should have followed their crash landing, it found nothing.
Why was she here? And... where was "here"? Kirima stepped away from the bloodied bodies, and absorbed her surroundings. She was in some sort of small hospital ward, and turning 180 degrees, she could see a row of gurneys adjacent to the room's south wall. The space had no windows, and was lit by a group of blue disks fixed to the ceiling.
These stole Kirima's attention, and kept it for some time, before she finally shifted her eyes towards the door. How it had evaded her gaze until now, she had no idea, but yes, there it was. She gingerly stepped over one of the corpses, and was halfway to the way out, when a hand shot forward, and grabbed her ankle. Kirima screamed, and dashed out of the dead hand's grasp.
She whirled around to find that the blood which had previously covered the floor was now gone, and that both men she had impaled with spikes of ice were now rising to their feet as if nothing had happened. Slowly, she backtracked, and nearly stumbled over one of the beds.
"Look at that, she's awake!" the taller of the two men exclaimed. The shorter one frowned, and examined the hole in his shirt. "But how did she—?"
"I don't know. Stone was with us though—he must've gone to grab Jefferson."
Both then turned to Kirima, and she let out a whimper. "How are you alive? you—I saw you die! I-I killed you both."
The shorter swiveled to face the taller. "She's a strange one, ain't she?"
The taller nodded. "Well, what do you expect? She fell out of the freakin' wormhole! I mean, she's pretty much an alien!"
An eye roll signified the shorter one's disapproval of the taller's comment. "Will you shut up about that, Miles? She's not an alien—none of 'em are. I'd say they're all a bunch of terrorists. At least, Shaun seems to agree with me."
"Well then how do you explain the water bag?"
"Why won't you answer my question?" Kirima cried, "I ran you through! With icicles! How're you talking?"
"Icicles!" the shorter man—who was evidently called "Miles"—said, "so that's what—wait, it's gotta be 70 degrees in here, how'd you get icicles?"
Kirima couldn't believe how slow this man was on the uptake. "I'm a waterbender," she patronized, "I can do this crazy thing where I pull moisture out of—"
The sound of the door sliding open interrupted Kirima, and all eyes turned to the pair standing behind it. One of the men had a Water Tribe complexion, similar to her, Miles, and the taller guy. The other however... had freakishly pale skin. Kirima through he somewhat resembled a ghost, if It were to don a suit and sunglasses. "Jeremy! Miles! What's going on here?" The suited ghost asked.
Both men quickly explained the situation, referring to the ghost as "Jefferson."
"Icicles? That's funny... That other guy—Anyu. He called the female something like 'waterbender.'" He turned to Kirima. "Is that what you do? You create and control water? You 'bend' it? Is that how you created the water bag and the icicles these men have been telling me about?"
Out of all the words Jefferson had just said, Kirima had only heard one of them: Anyu. He was alive! And... somewhere nearby. It was then that she realized her next objective. She had to find both Hiro and her boyfriend, no matter what the cost. She had no Idea where she was, or why the people surrounding her could reanimate each other, or why none of them seemed to know what being a waterbender meant, but... Those questions could wait.
In one fluid movement, Kirima slipped into her favorite waterbending stance. Opening her palms and slicing them forward, she drained the air of its moisture, and fashioned it into cuffs of ice, which she slammed all four men into the wall with.
But she wasn't finished there. Just as Miles began struggling, she searched the room for more water. She found plenty in its plumbing, and soon, not just the arms, but the entire bodies of the men were encased in ice.
In a flash, Kirima was out the door and into the hallway beyond. But unfortunately, she failed to get far before sirens began blaring, and heavy footfalls sounded from up ahead.
As she turned a corner and dashed into another corridor, Kirima busted more and more pipes. It was funny; she had thought that after a stunt like the one she'd pulled to save her and her comrades' lives, she would end up exhausted. But running down the passage, trailing a wave of water behind, she couldn't have felt more energized. It was as if the very air was giving her strength.
Another turn put her right at the source of the footfalls. At least twenty men, each clad in armor one might see in a sci-fi comic, stood before her. Kirima planted her feet, and swung her arms out. The great wave she'd been pulling surged past her and crashed into the men, who scattered like bowling pins. The few that were left standing fell back into a defensive position, but couldn't hold the line. Kirima drew two immense ice columns from the water at her feet and launched them forward. This hit a few of the men like a battering ram, so they flew back several yards.
One man who had avoided this fate managed to raise his machine gun. He squeezed the trigger, and bullets sprayed the air. Some peppered the floor, but the majority slammed into Kirima's chest. She was on her back before she realized what was going on, gasping as blood filled her throat.
Monday, November 3rd, 220 AG
Chen had been there when the Aang Memorial had lost its head. He had been right there—inside the museum beneath it, in fact. He and his family had just finished the first leg of their Yue Bay glass bottom boat tour, and it was shaping up to be a wonderful afternoon. Ying, Tara and Riko had come along, and Chen had been hanging out with the three of them over by the Sokka display, admiring the hero's fabled boomerang. Riko had been looking forward to seeing Toph's meteor bracelet, but unfortunately, the item had been stolen recently, and was currently being searched for by the police.
It was doubtful any progress would be made on the investigation any time soon, however, for panic riots were becoming more and more frequent these days, as the wormhole was still there, and still as scary as ever. Rumor was the URSA was working on a probe of some sort, but they were just rumors. Even Chen's mom had no idea whether or not such a project existed.
"Sokka was... incredible," Ying admired, "he, as a nonbender, was able to hold his own among a group of the world's best benders. A real inspiration, you know?" Chen said nothing—a ray of light was slanting in and illuminating Tara's hair, and this sight demanded his full attention. She and Riko had moved over to the submarine exhibit.
Chen left Ying to join the girls.
"Riko!" a voice called from across the room, "it's time to leave."
Chen turned on his heel to find Kai Tezuka, Riko's father, standing in the museum's doorway. That was odd. Riko wasn't supposed to go home until later that evening.
"Dad!" Riko seemed to be under the same impression. "Why do I have to go?"
"Never mind that," Kai said quickly, "we shouldn't keep the boat waiting."
Riko crossed her arms. "It's the Heliofuser, isn't it?" her words were scarcely above a whisper.
Kai walked briskly over to his daughter, and grabbed her by the shoulder.
"It's the Heliofuser, everyone!" Riko yelled to the museum's crowds, "The big secret project my father's working on! But you'd better not tell anyone! It's a secret!"
Kai clamped his hand on Riko's mouth, and dragged her to the double doors. If Riko's mysterious outburst had surprised the man, he didn't let it show. Soon, the two were out of sight, and Chen turned to Ying.
"What was that all about?"
Ying thought for a moment. "Not sure. But... Hey, if Kai Tezuka's working on a project, I wanna know about it! Especially if it's a secret one!" Ying then took one last look at the Sokka display, and raced out the front doors after Riko and her father.
Chen sighed. He'd never really known Kai all that well—his knowledge consisted of bits a pieces given to him by Ying—but it was enough to tell him that the man wasn't the best person to hang out with. Riko was just fine, but Chen didn't like the idea of his friend spending time with her father.
"Ying, wait—" Chen didn't get to finish, for at just that moment, an immense cracking sound rang out through the museum's main hall, quickly followed by a ground-shaking boom. The lights flickered, cracks webbed across the walls, and the entire west half of the ceiling fell to the floor.
A symphony of creaks and groans reverberated through the wreckage as Chen's mind tried to make sense of what was happening. Finally, after the third pile of rubble collapsed from the roof, it gave up, and Chen slipped into unconsciousness.
Ying had just seen the Aang memorial statue decapitated by a meteor, and still, he had trouble believing it. He checked to see how Kai and Riko were taking it, and found they were speechless as well.
His mind was screaming at him, half commanding him to run to the rubble and claw at it in search of his friends, and the other half telling him to get the heck out of there, in case the statue could collapse further. But his muscles were locked in place; the horror of the event he'd just witnessed kept him rooted to the spot.
Riko was the first to act. She put one foot forward, the other behind it, and thrust her arms backward, parallel to each other. Ying had watched her practice this specific stance numerous times—it was the first in her rocket propulsion form. Flames erupted from Riko's knuckles, and she shot forward like a bullet.
Ying followed her with his eyes, and winced when she bounced off the rubble which now covered the main entry without inflicting a dent.
Blood spurting from a cut on her cheek, Riko picked herself up, and ran at the pile a second time. She hit it with jab after jab, yet each one failed to move even one stone—the mound was too thick.
"Dad!" she yelled, "don't just stand there, do something!"
Kai shook his head. "It's no use. Your friends are most likely dead, and that rubble is comprised of marble and steel. You could stand there all day and not even make a scratch." He sighed as the sound of sirens sped towards them through the late afternoon air. "Let's go home."
A Rattletrap Rhythm
Beyond that pile of marble and steel, through a few crumpled corridors and sagging ceilings, Chen was living the last few days of Avatar Korra's life.
It had been a sunny all day, yet now; the skies were heavy with rain. Dreary light, muted by the clouds, slanted in through a set of tall, ornate windows. After examining the dresser, and the well-made mattress hugging the room's north wall, Chen realized he was looking into Korra's bedroom. The Avatar herself was seated on her bed, legs crossed in the lotus position, hands pressed against each other. She was meditating.
The air conditioning had begun coughing, a series of fits and starts, or... had it always been doing that, just without Chen noticing? He couldn't tell, but he gave the issue little thought. Instead, he crept closer to Korra's body, and examined her. She seemed physically sound—unlike the last time he'd seen her. That was good. Her hair still had its full, auburn look. Chen had to stop himself from leaning in to smell it. Tara was his girl! Even if Korra was... quite possibly the most attractive woman he'd seen—he couldn't entertain such thoughts. He couldn't... What was wrong with that AC unit?
Its rattletrap rhythm was more than audible now. It was intrusive. It'd start up, belch out two quick bursts of air, then shut down, and begin the whole thing again in about half a minute.
Chen listened to it awhile, and found that it had a sort of pattern to it. Two short bursts, one quiet, one loud, then a pause, and then another pair of bursts. Burst-burst... Burst-burst... Burst-bump... Burst-bump. Bump-bump. Bump-bump.
Chen's eyes went wide. It was a heartbeat! All at once the wheeze of the AC had become something more organic, alive. The beat grew in volume until he had to cover his ears. The whole room was bouncing the noise around. Back and forth, back and forth.
Chen noticed something wet and sticky under his foot, and jumped. He examined the spot where he'd been standing. It was bleeding. The floor was bleeding! And... so were the walls. Streams of blood poured through the wallpaper and soaked the floor. Chen's clothes were drenched, and he fell backward, onto Korra's bed. "12-12-12-12-12-12" Something said from behind him. Just from the voice, Chen could tell who it was. That deep, phlegmy wriggle of arteries in veins, along with the click-clack of shark teeth. Chen grimaced. It was him.
"It's been a long time since I've seen you." He said. Chen was surprised to hear him say anything but the number twelve.
"What do you mean?" Chen inquired without turning around. He wanted to avoid looking at that grotesque heart-headed thing if possible. "My last nightmare was two nights ago."
"Not you," He growled, placing a hand of veins on Chen's shoulder. "I couldn't care less about your organic shell. I'm talking about this." His hand moved to Chen's diaphragm. "The spirit inside you. The very essence which keeps your civilization alive."
"What do you—?"
"I mean the Avatar, the thing which my people created and the thing which decided to burden me with an open wound. It sleeps inside you."
"So you're saying I'm the--?"
"Yes, Chen. You are the Avatar, and the Avatar is you."
Chen failed to process his words. They were too crazy, too impossible for him to believe. How could he possibly be the Avatar? He couldn't even bend Earth, much less the other four elements. And he'd never had a single life-changing—But wait. He'd had a few visions. In fact, he was in one now. Still, though, Chen was sure the thing behind him was either lying, or mistaken.
"Now," He continued, "I've got to get going. I can't stay in your mind forever, and I've got other things to do if you're going to make it out of this whole structural collapse ordeal alive. But before I leave, I'd like to tell you my name. It's an honor indeed, and you should appreciate it. Very few of my puppets know what I call myself."
"Like Bolin and Doctor Huang," Chen surmised, "they were puppets, weren't they?"
He failed to answer Chen's latest question, and instead spoke seven words. Seven words which answered one of Chen's stronger, much more prominent questions. "I am Xinzang," he said, "the spirit of blood." As soon as he'd spoken those words, Xinzang, along with his lake of blood and living AC unit, receded into nothing. Chen was, once again, alone with Korra in her room.
Rain pattered against the windows. A single fan spread its breeze across Chen's face. And at last... The doorknob turned.
The wooden door soon swung open, and Chen darted behind the bed. Whoever this new intruder was, he doubted he or she would be happy to see him. Or... could they? By the look of Korra, Chen guessed he was seeing the past. If this was the case, it was unlikely he'd be able to do anything to change events which had already run their course. He most likely an invisible, intangible observer.
And so, Chen peeked up over the comforter, and came face-to-face with... Pema! He'd never actually seen any pictures of the great Tenzin's wife, but somehow, in this dream world, he knew that was who she was. Her hair was styled in what Chen knew was the usual manner, and she was dressed in traditional Air-Nomad robes, similar to the ones Tara wore on special occasions.
"Korra..." Pema's voice was soft, and comforting. "All this self-deprivation won't bring him back. Please, just eat something. Anything."
Korra did not respond.
Pema extended a hand, and gave Korra's shoulder a light shake. "Korra, please. Try to remember the good times you two had together. That's what... That's what's been keeping me going." She offered her a weak smile. "Tenzin lived a long, happy life. He's in a good place, I know it."
She shook Korra again, and this time, Korra failed to remain in a cross-legged position. She toppled over onto the comforter like a sack of potatoes. A look of worry shaded Pema's features.
"Korra, what are you doing?—Get up!"
When several minutes passed without any movement from Korra, Pema drew a ragged breath, and dashed out of the room. "Nurse!" Chen heard her shout, "Come quickly! Something's wrong!"
As Pema continued through the hallway and out of sight, Chen's nostrils detected something. He turned away from Korra to investigate the scent, and found it smelled a lot like... Natural gas? Yes, he was sure of it. That metallic, sickly smell that always lingered around stoves and heaters.
More and more of it flowed through his nose, into his head, and the strength went out of his legs. His body fell to the floor, and small, fleeting noises danced through his ears. The crackle of a fractured electric cable. The squeal of a girder under stress. And... Chen's head hit the ground before he could be sure, but he thought he'd heard the voice of Min.
"Get up, Chen!" She seemed to say, "There's a gas leak!"
Exhaustion poured over Chen like water—the gas was thick, and it had shoved him beneath the waves. Now, he was fighting for breath, but... the water had already filled his lungs.
Happy New Year everyone! This chapter's a bit shorter than the others, but hey. I still hope you like it! And as always, remember...
Leave a comment! I CRAVE feedback!
For the collective works of the author, go here.