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|Green Man: Helping Your Friends|
May 18, 2013
Socializing with Friends
Republic City Police Station
Lin Beifong was irritated to say the least. The Equalists were being led by a fanatic named Amon, he had successfully managed to stir the city into a panic. His followers were just as fanatic; she had nearly 30 of them locked up and not a single one said a word. To make matters worse, Tarrlok was making it out as if this was all somehow her fault. She told herself it was best to just focus on the now and worry about him later.
Right now she was overlooking an interrogating one of the "victims" of the Equalist raid three days ago. A known mobster "Shady" Shin, if it was up to her she would lock the whole lot in the same cell and let them rot. Unfortunately it wasn't, there was no solid evidence linking Shin to any crime so in the eyes of the law he was a regular innocent.
"So, officer, do you plan on letting me go anytime soon?" he asked his interrogator, "Unless you plan to charge me with anything that is, I'm a very busy man."
"Not yet, Shin, the law states that we can hold you up to 96 hours without charge if we have a probable cause and we plan to use them to the last second."
"Oh really? And what cause might that be, officer, because I've done nothing wrong."
"You were found with nearly two dozen suspected criminals, of which 3 of them have outstanding arrest warrants. Flaming Tai, Ten Finger Lee and Nails Nao are all wanted for gang related crimes. I'd say that makes it pretty probable cause don't you?"
Shin held his hands up and leaned back in his chair, "Never heard of them, now if you don't mind, I'm quite sleepy and would like to go back to my cell please."
Shin disgusted Lin, the whole lot of them did. They went around the city hurting and terrifying ordinary people out of selfishness and greed. This scene wasn't uncommon, for every criminal they put away, eight more get off scott free. For example, a certain nameless cripple, she was certain he was a high-ranking member of the gang, if only she had held him longer. Now who knows what sort of twisted scheme that mastermind would inflict on Republic City....
Zhi was enjoying a bowel of seaweed noodles at his land lord's restaurant. Things were good, he had friends and money....and that was about it. Though in his books that was a big deal, and he was happy.
A man in a hood walked into the restaurant, he looked around suspiciously and took a seat next to Zhi. He pulled down his hood; it was Two Toed Ping. In a hushed voice he said, "Zhi, listen..I er..really need your help. I'm in a lot of trouble here.."
Zhi continued eating, between mouthfuls he asked, "The Equalists? Just lay low with Chen and this whole Equalist thing will blow over in no time."
"No, it's not them...well not entirely, it's Chen; we're in seriously big trouble here, Zhi, I'm not kidding," his voiced trembled. This registered with Zhi, he immediately stopped eating and looked at his friend, Ping had a black eye.
"What happened? What's wrong with Chen?"
"It's..." he looked around nervously, "it's the Agni Kais, I...Chen, Li, and I we..." he fell silent.
"We sorta owe them some money." Zhi moaned; he needed this as much as a tree need a forest fire.
"How much?" He asked, dreading the answer. He leaned back on his stool to ease his tension.
"Three hundred thousand,," he whispered. Zhi fell off his stool and hit the ground, Ping went down to help him up.
"WHAT!" He shouted, turning heads throughout the restaurant. Even Teuchi paused his cooking to look.
"Shh, not so loud," he looked around again, "we aren't safe here, come on I'll explain in my car."
"Oh okay," replied Zhi. He paid his bill, and together the two of them walked silently towards Ping's car. It was a classic Satomobile, painted hot red. Zhi jumped inside and the two drove off. When he was sure they weren't being followed, he continued their conversation.
"WHAT! THREE HUNDRED THOUSAND! HOW THE HELL DID YOU DO THAT? WHY! WHY! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT!!" He screamed. Ping jumped in his seat, jerking the car in the road.
"Careful Zhi, you nearly damaged the car. Do you have..." Ping stopped when he saw the look in Zhi's face. He'd seen something like that once, it was when he saw Zolt talking to Chief Beifong. He gulped down his nerves and began to explain himself.
"It was a wolf horse game. We rigged them so we would win. All we needed was a loan to get things going. And the track is Agni Kai territory and .."
"I get it, so what's the plan?" Ping stopped the car by a very expensive looking sport scar. He leaned over and removed something black from the glove compartment. It was a woolen mask; he threw one to Zhi.
"Put this on, I'll wait out here. Chen is on the third floor and hurry, I don't think we have much time."
Zhi looked out the window. There was a very expensive looking night club. Then he realised what was happening.
"Oh no, no no no no no." he began, "I'm not about fight my way into the Agni Kais' home base. I don't know about you, but I like my bones in one piece."
Ping took off his mask. He looked solemnly at Zhi, "Last I checked, they were really hurting Chen. The only reason we're both not dead is because I told them I was getting the money. Please Zhi, you're our only hope."
Like that, all of the anger and frustration in Zhi evaporated away. He nodded, and put on the mask. "Got any water?" he asked.
Ping pointed behind him. "There's a satchel in the back seat." Zhi grabbed it and took a deep breathe. This was going to hurt...a lot.
He burst out the car and ran towards the front door. It hadn't opened yet so with a sweep of his hand he blew them open with a blast of water. The inside was large and spacious, there were several people inside. A few waiters, bus boys and waitresses, they stood there shocked, one of them dropped their platter spilling food all over the floor. Zhi didn't break pace.
He ran past the first few without concern. Then one of the waitresses shouted, "YOU MESSED WITH THE WRONG CREW RAT-SHRIMP!" A fire ball shot over his head. He still didn't stop and ran into the kitchen and into a hail of knives that flew at him. He jumped to take cover behind a counter and froze the door solid.
He looked over the counter, the door was to his left. Maybe a seven second run probably eight, he ducked as a knife shot through the air.
"Stay out of my way and we can end this peacefully!" He shouted, hoping they were in as much mood of a fight as he was.In response a lightening bolt struck the counter blowing the top half clean off. A pipe burst gushing water into the air. Don't say I didn't warn you
Zhi leaped over the smoldering counter and bent the water into a wall of ice. Knives dug into it with a dull thud. Out of the corner of his eye he could see a very old chef drag his fingers through the air, which shrieked as sparks began to fly.
In one move he blew the ice wall apart with the force of an explosion. Chunks flew in all directions smashing into both ovens and people alike. The floor was soaking wet in what was mostly water, he froze it and skated to the stairs which were now full of fire benders trying to get out to him.
Drawing water from the kitchen he blasted water up the stairs and created a plow. Barging his way up the stairs, flinging fire benders over him or trampling them beneath his boots. Nothing personal
He reached the third floor. It was a dank dark room, the walls were laden with pipes. In the middle sat Chen, tied up in a chair on top of a very bloody cloth. His face was bruised and bleeding. He looked up and through his swollen eyes.
"THI!THNG ABABAR! HEBL BLEESE" he gurgled, blood bubbling from his mouth. Zhi leaped to him and cut his restraints. Chen fell to the ground.
"Come on buddy we need to go" Zhi carried Chen on his back, it looked quite ridiculous seeing as Chen was nearly twice his size. At that moment a dozen fire benders ran into the room. They didn't look in a talking mood.
With both his hands occupied they thought they had Zhi beaten. That was probably their biggest mistake in their long lives of mistakes.
Zhi took a deep breathe and held it. The pipes began to rumble and shake as their water pressure tripled. Then he exhaled and the pipes all burst at once, a wall of water shot out of the walls smashing into Zhi and fire bender alike. Zhi and Chen were blasted out of the window, pain shot through his entire body as he shattered the glass. He was falling face first into the street with a 120kg man on his back, not how he pictured his demise. He breathed out, freezing the water into a primitive slide. He landed (relatively) softly on his chest, with Chen still on him. It wasn't dignified but at least the searing pain reminded him he was alive.
Ping was in the drivers seat ready to go and the sports car was on fire. But at this point Zhi really didn't care he felt like he cracked a rib..or several in fact, the pain was blurring his vision. He put Chen in the back seat and began to heal himself. As his wounds began to feel better Chen moaned and stirred.
"Hold on, buddy, I'll heal you in a second" When the pain reached a tolerable level Zhi began to heal Chen. Ping said nothing and just continued to drive, he looked worried.
"Don't worry, Ping, I've got Chen stable. We can meet up with Lee and get you guys somewhere safe." Ping said nothing, but continued to drive silently.
"HEY! Don't just drive. Talk to me," snapped Zhi.
"Sorry, you see the thing is, Lee is being held by someone also." Zhi would have face palmed if he wasn't healing Chen.
"Who has him? Another gang? The Triple Threats? Equalists?"
"I'm sorry, but it's the Republic City Police" Ping's voice was flat and toneless.
Zhi pulled off his mask. "Just drive. Damn you."
It was approaching dusk, The police headquarters was silent expect for the odd car moving in or out of the garage. Parked two blocks away was a red Satomobile, inside Zhi was sat inside nervously looking around. "So..." he began, "What's the plan exactly?" Ping had refused to tell them the plan until the sun had set and Zhi figured this was good enough. "Please tell me it's better than put on a disguise and go charging in"
Ping smiled. "Don't worry, I've put a lot of thought into this one." Zhi felt relieved. "In around 5 minutes, a mister Baojia is going to walk past this car. We take him down that alley there and take his ID. Then we proceed to step 2." he pointed down the road.
"What's step 2?"
Ping tightened his grip on the steering wheel. "Let's worry about it when we get to it, okay?"
Zhi nodded. This seemed like a pretty decent plan, it might even work.
Ping noticed something and tapped Zhi on the shoulder "Hey, that's him there". Baojia was a middle aged man with a white beard, walking down the street. Hows the big guy?"
Zhi looked back to the back seat of the car. Chen was lying down sleeping peacefully. His face was notably less swollen and his cuts had all but healed. "Sleeping like a baby". Ping tightened his grip on the steering wheel.
"Okay, better leave him there. Do want a hand taking care of the old man?"
Zhi shot him one of his awkward smiles and ran his hand through his hair. "Nah, I got this". He really didn't want to hurt the guy, and he was worried Ping may jump the gun if the guy resisted.
Ping nodded his approval and Zhi got out the car. He tailed behind the old man, then when he was sure no one was looking grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him into the alley. He tried to resist but Zhi was notably stronger than him.
"Get off me you..." he trailed off when Zhi pinned him to the wall. He noticed out of the corner of his eye that Ping was at the end of the alley keeping look out. "Look listen, if you want money I've got 100 yuan in my pocket you can have it just leave me alone."
He was scared, good. Zhi could hopefully use that to his advantage. "Shut up and listen" using the most threatening voice he could muster (pretty scary), "you're going to give me your ID now and go home got it?"
The quivering old man suddenly became very still and stared at Zhi. "If you think I'm giving you access to the Police Headquarters you've got another thing coming! It's scum like you that bring this city down," he spat on Zhi.
Zhi punched the old man in the gut (not too hard mind you). He fell to the floor wheezing, then he picked him up again and pinned him to the wall. "Now you listen here, you either give me your ID or I take it from you". Baojia remained silent and looked away from Zhi.
Zhi punched him again, putting more force into it this time. The old man fell to the floor, Zhi cracked his neck and crouched down to the old man. "Feel like co-operating or do I actually have to start hurting you?". Damn it man, just give up already
Baojia shook his head and spat on Zhi's foot. He was proud Zhi gave him that, but that pride was going to be his downfall. Zhi looked up, Ping tapped his watch impatiently. It seemed Zhi was going to have to do something drastic. Zhi jerked his head to the side and with a frustrated sigh Ping returned to the car.
He removed his glove and using his wooden arm picked up Baojia and pinned him to the wall. He starred at Zhi's wooden arm in horror, unsure what to make of it. "Now you listen to me old man, you see this?" The wood began to bulge as branches sprouted out wrapping themselves slowly around Baojia.
Baojia let out a scream but it was muffled by a branch wrapping around his mouth. Zhi leaned in close and whispered in the old mans' ear, "Now I'm done playing with you old man, so you're going to hand me your ID and go drinking for the evening. Otherwise I'm going to break your arms and legs, throw you into a river, find out where you live and do worse to you friends family and even that one rug that ties the room together," he dropped the old man the wood returning to an arm shape. "Got it?"
The old man threw his ID on the floor and ran away whimpering. Zhi felt terrible, like scum, no worse than scum. But it had to be done, otherwise much worse things would have taken place. He picked up the ID and walked back to the car. Ping was by the car looking impressed. "Wow you really did a number on that guy, never seen anyone so afraid. What did you do?"
Zhi shock his head, "Don't want to talk about it," Ping shrugged.
"Alright whatever you say, time to get onto phase two."
"What's phase two?" asked Zhi, he was eager to move on and put this whole thing behind him.
"Simple, he threw Zhi a fake beard. You go in with the ID, pretend to be the old man and bust Lee out. Though I advise you find his locker and change first."
"So, your big idea was I go in disguise and walk into the Police headquarters?"
"Lee came up with the ideas, didn't he?"
Ping was surprised, "How did you know?"
Zhi shrugged "By the way, how did you know he was going to be here?"
"They have all the schedules listed at the base."
This time it was Zhi's turn to be surprised. "And they let you look at them?"
Ping looked away, and Zhi understood. "Ah well, I guess I'd better get going." Zhi walked off to the police station. Ping grabbed his arm.
"Zhi, seriously, I'm so sorry, you can not believe how thankful I am."
Zhi turned around, "It's fine, honestly, after all what are friends for."
***** 4 hours later*****
Zhi was mopping up a mystery puddle on the third floor of the Police headquarters. (Why a mystery? You don't want to know) He had been carefully mapping out the building since he got inside. He needed to get to the sub basement, that's where Lee was being held. Lucky for him no one ever takes a good look at the janitor, else they somehow end up volunteering to help or something. It seemed the other janitors couldn't see past his very clever disguise of a scratchy fake beard. Baojia must have been unpopular.
He wheeled his janitor trolley down to the sub basement. Humming a merry tune to himself while hoping not to run into Chief Beifong, he somehow doubted he could fool her a second time. When he reached the sub basement he had the delight of noticing the main guard was fast asleep on duty. The fool even spilled a steaming cup of coffee all over his desk. This makes things much easier Zhi used his janitor keys (came with the uniform) and unlocked the door and helped himself to the guards keys.
"Yo ho, yo ho. a pirates life for me!" sang Zhi under his breath. He pushed the squeaking trolley into the cell wing. These were the minor cells, reserved for minors, first time offenders and petty criminals. Beyond the steel doors at the end is where the REAL monsters were kept, Equalists, crime lords, murderers etc. Luckily Lee wasn't kept there. He pushed the trolley up to Lee's cell and banged the door to wake him up. "Rise and shine Lee room service is here!"
Lee got up slowly not believing rubbing his eyes as if to ensure he wasn't dreaming. "Zhi? Is that you? What's with the fake beard?"
Zhi shrugged. "Ping's idea."
"Ah, that makes sense." Zhi unlocked the door and opened the trolley, which was completely hollow.
"Well, get in," Lee hesitated for a second then climbed into the trolley. "Now don't you say a word." Then he closed the lid and made his merry way.
He was just closing up the door to the jail wing when another guard came. He looked at his passed out colleague and Zhi in his fake beard and the keys. He raised his hands in ready position to fight, Zhi just dropped the keys and put his hands up.
"Who're you?" the guard demanded "And what did you do to him?"
"Me? Nothing honest. He was asleep on duty so I thought I'd leave him and just do my job."
"Is that so? well how about you show me your ID then?" Zhi nodded and slowly approached the guard. ID in his left hand, the guard squinted to read it from a distance and dropped his guard for a second. That was all Zhi needed.
With a snap and a crunch, Zhi stretched out his arm and punched the guard in the face. He fell to the floor like a bag of sweet potatoes. Zhi dragged the guard to Lees' cell then tied and gagged him with the bed sheets. Could have gone better thought Zhi. He closed the cell and a voice came from the trolley.
"What's happening I heard something?"
"I told you to be quiet."
"Sorry won't happen again," said the voice.
"What did I JUST SAY," silence, "Good". and they trundled down to the janitors rooms where Lee got changed into some spare uniform and they walked out like two very not criminals.
Driving with Friends
"Legend Zhi, you are an absolute legend" laughed Ping. "In one day you take on both the Agni Kais and the entire police force and come out on top!" Chen smacked Zhi on the back. Lee was beaming and Ping was smiling for the first time that day.
They had been driving for ten minutes now. Zhi and Lee were back in their normal clothes. "So Ping," asked Zhi, "What's the plan now?"
Ping smiled again, "We stop by your place pack up your essentials and get the midnight boat out of Republic City away from all this madness," Chen and Lee high fived.
Zhi stopped smiling, "I...I can't do that," everyone went silent.
"Why not kid?" asked Lee.
"Because I'm looking for something here."
"What?" asked Chen
Zhi looked out the window then sheepishly said," I..don't know."
"What sort of answer is that?" cried Ping. Lee raised his hand to silence him. Then in a solemn voice asked;.
"Is there anything we can say or do to change your mind kid?" Zhi shook his head. There really wasn't.
"Well in that case kid, I guess...." Lee was cut off by a rock smashing into the rear windshield of the car.
"Holy Avatar what was that!" shouted Ping. Chen stuck his head out the window and got hit by a rock to the head and collapsed. Lee had to grab onto his waist to stop him from falling out and dragged him back.
"It's the Agni Kais, I'll heal Chen. Zhi hold them off, Ping loose them."
"Got it," said the two at the front. Ping accelerated, Zhi put on his mask and opened the top of the car to stand up.
A rock shot at his head, he cut it in two with a water blade. Then he shot two icicles at the car's tires. Their own water bender blocked it, turning the ice to water. There were three of them fighting in the other car, all of them locked onto Zhi.
He first sent a water whip at the earth bender but the water bender deflected it to become his own weapon. Just what Zhi wanted, he blew the water up into a bomb of ice as it was in the water benders hands. The force knocked him clean out of his car and he hit the street hard.
The firebender shot an arc of lightening at Zhi, it missed by inches. The Earth bender was trying to destabilize the car. It swerved violently nearly throwing Zhi out. "CAREFUL!" he shouted.
Lightening shot out again, but it missed by a wider arc. He sent ice shards at them and water whips but they kept intercepting them. He couldn't hold balance long enough to do any more complex techniques, and he dare not use any woodbending so publicly. The last thing he wanted was a bloodwitch hunt. Then he noticed it.
"PING, TURN ONTO THAT BRIDGE THERE!" he shouted.
"WHAT? WHY, WE CAN LOOSE THEM EASIER IF WE TAKE THE SIDE ROADS!" he shouted back.
"JUST DO IT!""FINE, I TRUST YOU," the car swiveled left and turned onto the bridge. Their pursuers did the same and accelerated on the straight empty bridge.
Zhi held out both his arms, ignoring the incoming attacks. With a grunt he lifted a colossal wave from beneath the bridge. It dwarfed them all and stood far above the bridge itself. Their pursuers turned their car around immediately.
"Hoolllyy mole monkeys" exclaimed Lee.
Zhi thrust his hands out. The wave shot out in front of him and smashed into the Agni Kai car, carrying it out of the bridge and into a cabbage cart.
Zhi sat back down. The others looked at him in awe, Lee smiled and clapped Zhi on the back. "You my friend, are a living legend".
****some time later***Zhi was saying good bye on the docks. Chen was hugging him with the force of an iron clamp. "Ill miss you buddy, don't forget me eh."
"Course not, Chen," he wheezed. Chen put him down. Lee walked up to him and hugged Zhi also albeit not as hard.
"Great things, you are destined for great things. Don't forget that," he took off his black hat revealing a bald patch and put it Zhi's head. "I'll be wanting that back now, so you better visit us and return it."
Then it was Ping, he looked around nervously. "I'm, not too good at this sorta thing.. I mean if your ever in Ba sing Se drop us a line my brother in law works a gambling ring" he kicked the ground then pulled out a set of keys. "Here, I want you to have the car."
Zhi slowly took the keys shocked, "Wow, er I don't know..er thanks, Ping, I mean seriously," Ping jumped and hugged Zhi.
"It wasn't supposed to end like this, it was just the beginning.." Zhi patted him on the back.
"I know mate, I know"
Ping let go, his eyes shinning with tears, "Be careful now, you hear me? These Equalists are dangerous, and repaint the car or someone might recognize it and and and...." Lee put a hand on his shoulder. They all shared one last smile and turned around.
They got on the boat and waved at Zhi calling to him. He shouted back at them, he was laughing and so were they. When they were no longer in veiw he walked back to the car. He didn't know how to drive one but he'd work it out. Zhi sat in the drivers seat and held the steering wheel. Once again he was alone in Republic City, and suddenly it seemed a lot bigger and more unforgiving than ever before. He sighed and tried to get the car started. If you looked in through the window you'd swear Zhi was crying.
******* Police Headquarters******
Lin Beifong was talking to officer Song, on a routine check up he had been ambushed by someone disguised as a janitor. He was sitting at the chiefs desk holding a bloody handkerchief to his face to stop the nose bleed. He had just gone through his story for the third time, Lin was trying to see some sort of motive of letting out one mobster who was arrested for an unpaid parking ticket.
"I think the bleeding has stopped Chief what do you think?" he lifted off the handkerchief. Lin leaned over to take a look.
"It looks fine just see a healer and..." she noticed something, "hold still," she reached forward and picked something from Songs' face. She held it in front of her to take a better look, it was a splinter.
"Huh, I wonder how that got there," Song wondered aloud.
"Yeah, I wonder," she knew who it belonged to. Whatever he wanted Lee for must have been a big deal if he was risking her seeing him again. It must have taken a lot of planning, he was a true master mind.
******Somewhere very different******
Amon stared though the holes in his mask at the man sat before him. His lieutenant sat to his right, his arm in a sling from the bridge crash. A middle aged man sat opposite them, cowering in fear.
"You failed me," he said flatly, his voice echoing through the room.
"I know, Sir, but I can explain," whimpered the middle aged man.
"You had better," snapped the lieutenant, "months of planning and nearly thirty of our brothers and sisters rot in a cell because of you."
"I was on my way to the station as planned, sir after stealing Baojias' ID Amon sir, but when before I arrived, I was ambushed by ...something."
"Something?" Barked the lieutenant, "What do you mean something?"
"A tree sir..." Fake Baojia began.
"A TREE!! WHAT DO YOU TAKE US FOR? MORONS?!" Amon raised his hand and the Lieutenant fell silent.
"Continue." his monotonous voice sent chills down Fake Baojias' spine
"He..it had a tree for an arm, it wrapped around me, he beat me he said he'd do worse." The Lieutenant was silent then spoke to Amon quietly.
"Sir, there were reports of a man who could stretch his limbs out further than thought possible from that night" he whispered. "Perhaps the two are related somehow."
Amon remained silent, Fake Baojia fidgeted slightly in his seat eyeing the door nervously.
"Very well, leave us and consider yourself lucky," he said finally.
The imposter got up and bowed, "Oh, I will Amon sir, I mean, I do," and he scurried off.
Amon turned to face his Lieutenant. "Whoever this Tree man is he poses a threat. Twice now it seems he's thwarted our plans. There will not be a third, I want him found and brought to me, no doubt he is planning his next scheme.
- Elsewhere *****
At the docks, Zhi was still trying to turn the car on. He'd been trying for the past hour.
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