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July 4, 2013
Zhi was eating a steaming bowel of salted flying squid when he heard it. The "Raaatch" and then a "Clunk" as metal hit metal. He got up to see what the commotion was about and left the restaurant, bowl of salted-flying-squid held firmly in his right hand.
There was someone pulling up his car onto a truck with a tether and hook. This car was a bright red automobile (Zhi didn't know the make) with a cracked windshield and more dents then he cared to count. But to Zhi the most important fact was that it was HIS car.
"HEY!" he shouted at the man securing the tether, who obliged by completely ignoring Zhi. Sending blood rushing to his head, "OI I'M TALKING TO YOU OLD MAN!" he held his bowel of squid menacingly. The old man continued to pretend that Zhi didn't exist. Zhi slammed his hand on the bonnet of his car, startling the old man to look up. "DON'T IGNORE ME! WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU'RE DOING!" The old man stared at Zhi and opened his mouth to speak.
"Don't say a word, Mr Hio", came a feminine voice from inside the truck. And out climbed out of the truck, looking down at her clipboard. She wore a police uniform, cloth suit with a pair of metal armbands and cables extending from them to behind her back.
As soon as Zhi saw the badge on her chest his anger immediately dissipated and was replaced with a slight panic. It had been nearly three weeks since he busted out his friends the Triple Threat Bros, surely they hadn't caught onto him now? He held his steaming bowel of lunch close to him.
She continued, "I presume you are the owner? I need you to sign some things if you would..." she looked up and instantly looked back down at her clipboard. Zhi wasn't able to make out her face.
Jun felt a little flustered, this guy was hot hot hot. Professional said a voice in her head Be professional. She held out her hand for a shake, "Private Jun of the Republic City Police Force", he gestured to the bowel in his right hand and she tried to shake his left hand. It was awkward.
She said a few quick words to Mr Hio and he nodded, clearly not happy, and got into his truck. The guy didn't like that at all and proceeded to shout out but she held out her palm and he stopped. Even as Mr Hio drove off, though she could see the look of desperation in his eyes. 'poor guy she thought.
Zhi was ready to go into a rampage, it took a lot of self-control to behave himself in front of this police woman. She seemed about the same age and was quite cute; not that he noticed any of that. He was filled with too much anger. He watched as the truck took a left at the end of the street, his car with it. Civil he told himself Be civil.
Private Jun put an arm on his shoulder. And said in a soft voice, "Hey, don't worry I'm here to help. So you say we talk about this inside?" Zhi gave her a forced smile and lead the way. Cursing furiously under his breath.
After a bit the two were eating in a booth, neither saying a word. Zhi was wondering what the point of this was. Jun was staring at Zhi with a smile on her face and it was freaking Zhi out. Was this some sort of sting? Was this Jun the bait to some sort of trap? Would a platoon of metal benders burst in from all directions as he was chewing? Finally, he gathered the courage to speak," So..err..did you want to talk to me about something?"
Jun jumped slightly, like she was in some sort of day dream. "Oh, of course. Sorry, I get all spacey sometimes", she smiled at Zhi. Who just kept getting more and more suspicious of the other customers, making sure none of them was Lin Beifong in a moustache.
Jun pulled out her clipboard and a pen. "I'm afraid Zhi, that your car has been towed away due to it violating several automobile regulations".
"What regulations?" asked Zhi, "The car works just fine".
Jun stuck her tongue out the side of her mouth slightly and began moving her pen down the clip board. "Chhhh...let's see... Ah, your brake lights were damages, your mirrors are missing. There are several tears in the metal above 8 inches long. The bonnet is smashed inwards and there are several cracks in the windshield which is the only window you have..."
"I get the point", interrupted Zhi, "What do I need to do?"
For some reason unknown to Zhi, she smiled. It sent shivers down his spine, he readied himself for an attack. "Normally your car would be crushed in a scrap yard. But yours truly" she placed a hand on her chest as if to remind Zhi she existed, " arranged it to go to a garage, where it will be taken up to code by the end of the day".
Zhi blinked several times unable to process this. A lawman who helps people? " Thanks...", he said in an uneasy voice. She took his thanks as a signal of sorts and got up to leave. Zhi got up also.
"My pleasure Zhi. But..", here it comes thought Zhi, " you'll need to pick it up tomorrow". Zhi was actually feeling a little insulted that he hadn't been harassed somehow by now. He realized how messed up that was.
"Is that all?" he asked in a disappointed voice.
Jun smiled cheekily misinterpreting Zhi completely, "Well I guess you could pick it up tonight" she said moving towards him and into what Zhi called his "personal zone". "Say at 8ish?" she asked.
"Err okay", replied Zhi, "Where is the garage?"
Jun scribbled down an address and handed it to him. Then she winked and said "Until tonight. And dress nicely", then walked away with a very postured sort of way.
Zhi sat back down and stared at the address he had in his hand. Did that just happen he wondered. There was only one logical answer to this, he rationed, only one reason she would ask to meet him late at night dressed nicely. This was some sort of setup and she wanted to ruin his best clothes as some sort of insult to injury thing. He then noticed she had neglected to leave any money to pay for her food. Typical cop
Night at the mechanics
It was 6:50 and in Cabbage Corporations Garage 923T Jie was having a very angry conversation over the phone.
"N..no. I'm not gonna help you get l.la..laid" he stuttered. His anger making him choke on his words.
"Don't be so obscene Jie. It's just one car. replied an offended Jun.
Jie rubbed his eyes, "we close up in literally ten minutes how do you expect me to fix it up by 7?" Jun remained silent then Jie put it together. "What time is he coming?"
"8" she replied
"You sure?" he asked
"8ish" she corrected. "Come I promise it'll be the last time I ask you for a favour like this"
"You said that the last four times"
"Can I help if I'm a passionate person! Besides this one is different, I can feel it." Jie scowled, he had looked at the car and there was something different about this guy alright.
"About that" began Jie.
After a while of intense arguing. Jie sighed, "fine, I'll do it.", Jun began thanking him and making all kinds of promises on the other end. But Jie just hung up. He cracked his neck and pulled out his trusty tool kit. 'I need better friends he thought
at 7:30 Zhi turned up at the garage. He wore his green battle clothes, his water satchel hidden neatly at his waist. It was seemingly unoccupied except for a single light on in what he assumed was the break room. He had turned up early in hopes to ambush the ambush he was certain was waiting for him. Zhi snuck up to the door of the break room which was left slightly ajar. He could hear a radio playing something, he couldn't make out what.
Just before he barged in he heard a male voice "Come in, I know you're outside my door". Zhi held back his panic and put on his best innocent smile. When he opened the door he saw a very big guy dressed in a dirty uniform listening to the radio. He wore a pair of thick glasses which seemed out of place against his large frame. He looked young though, no older than 20.
Zhi gave the man a slight wave, the man looked up at him and nodded slightly,"Hey",
"Hey", Zhi replied, "I'm here for..."
"I know why, she ain't here yet." he replied dryly.Zhi took a seat next to the mechanic. He wasn't sure what to do exactly, he was ready for an intense fight to the bitter end. Now he felt woefully out of his element.
"So, what you listening to?" he asked.
"Pro bending is on in a bit" the mechanic replied coldly. Zhi had a feeling that this guy didn't like him very much.
"The hell is pro-bending" he asked. He had heard of it but had never actually had it explained to him.
The mechanic did a double take, nearly falling off his chair. "WHAT" he exclaimed as if Zhi had offered some grave insult to him. "How do you not know what pro-bending is?"
"Err, I'm fairly new to the city" he replied simply.
"Didn't you have radio's where you grew up?"
Zhi paused to think, "We had one, but it was used for work so I never got a chance to use it"
The mechanic shook his head and proceeded to explain all the rules to pro-bending. "I'm Jie by the way" he mentioned randomly while explaining the ways a fire bender may cause a foul.
After what seemed like an eternity, Jie stopped and said, "Looks like Jon's gonna run late. Wanna listen to the match?"
At this point Zhi had all but completely tuned out of the conversation. So he just gave an uncertain "mmm". Jie turned up the radio and a voice came on.
"Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the match of the year! The Wolfbats vs the Boarcupines, will the Boarcupines regain their title from the..."
It all seemed incredibly dull to Zhi. The entire concept of gathering 6 benders fighting just for fun seemed a little redundant. But Jie was really into it, cheering and shouting. Then booing something, Zhi really didn't understand any of it. But he chipped in the occasional "yeah" and "boo" every now and again to keep face.
The match was over fairly quickly, it didn't seem like much of a match. But Jie seemed to have enjoyed it, though he seemed more annoyed now. He probably rooted for the loosing team thought Zhi.
Not wanting to hear a 2 hour lecture on the match he tried to change the subject "So, did you manage to fix my car?"
Jie cracked his neck and turned to face Zhi. "Yeah I did, and on that subject. How DID you damage your car so badly?"
Zhi fell silent for a moment. Then he replied, "Car crash, slipped on the ice", that was partially true he DID crash the car when he first got it.
Jie nodded, "okay, then how do you explain the burn and scorch marks?" he asked in a dry voice. Zhi remained silent. "You know what I think?" he asked. Zhi felt on edge, perhaps he DID walk into a trap of sorts. "I think you're in a gang and are using Jun for another of your get rich quick schemes"
"Wait wha.." asked Zhi, but before he could finish Jie got up and swung a wrench at Zhi's head. Zhi jumped back to dodge but found his legs had been tied in thin wire when he wasn't paying attention. The wrench just missed his head and fell down onto his shoulder. He gasped in pain and by flicking his chin up he managed to send a blast of water out of his hidden satchel and straight into Jie's face. Sending him flying backwards into his radio. While using his left arm to simultaneously cut himself free with an ice blade.
A feminine voice shouted out from behind "JIE!" Zhi turned around, rubbing his shoulder, and saw Jun was running at him from beneath a work bench. Two thick metal cables flew at him, he jumped back dodging one but the other wrapped itself firmly around his wooden leg.
"HA! GOT YOU!" she shouted and sent the second one to wrap around his arms. From the corner of his eye he saw that Jie had gotten up and was fiddling with a some sort of device.
Now Zhi was getting mad, in all fairness he did expect an ambush of sorts. But not this ridiculous vigilante level nonsense. It was time to show these people who exactly they were messing with. He grabbed the cable with his wooden arm, then slimmed his leg to slip out of the cable. He saw Juns' eyes widen in surprise, but it was short lived as he pulled on the cable, sending her flying towards him. Then he sent a solid ice fist right at her. It shattered against her face, and she fell against the floor, unconscious.
His' success was short lived. Almost the instant Jun hit the ground something hard hit his back. Before he could react, burning pain shot through him. His entire body went numb and into spasms, his vision darkened. Zhi struggled to stay focused, then he passed out.
Ice cold water brought Zhi back into consciousness. He was tied up to a chair with thick cables. His arm and leg had been removed and were being examined by Jie and Jun at the other end of the table. Zhi looked around, Jie was sitting to his left with the wrench in his hand. There was a nasty bruise on his forehead. The room was dark and lit by a single bulb that swung low from the ceiling. Zhi was pretty sure this was still the break room, he could make out what looked like the radio he had smashed lying in pieces on the floor
"It's such a shame that the cute one's always have to be bad. But I have to say after asking around, it seems you have quite the reputation among the Triad" remarked Jun. Fiddling with the wooden arm idly, her nose was swollen and she had a black eye. "Now Mr Zhi, I think it's time you had a little confession"
This made Zhi smile, "What? You think you can just hit me a little then I start pouring my guts out begging for a chance for redemption? How stupid are you?" SMACK. Jun hit him across the face with his own hand, he could taste copper in his mouth.
"Actually" she said in a sweet voice, "Yes I do, except if you don't confess to me you'll find yourself confessing to the Equalists."
Zhi raised an eyebrow, "You actually work with those nut jobs?" he asked genuinely surprised "Aren't you meant to be a cop?"
Jun put her hand on his cheek and smiled sweetly "Oh, I am a cop" he began, "I believe in justice for everyone and I can see how badly non benders are treated by scum like you" she smashed his nose against her forehead.
Zhi spat and choked up blood. 'Typical cop he thought. He looked down at his feet then at Jie, giving him a sinister smile. Jie looked at him confused but before he could do anything Zhi made his move.
With a twitch of his fingers, Zhi made his wooden arm in Juns' hand attack her. It went for her throat, she dropped it in surprise but it just grabbed her ankle and pulled her onto the ground. Jie leaped at Zhi wrench raised but stopped when the hand dragged Jun across the floor in front of him. It had a firm grip on her throat and she was struggling desperately to get it off.
"Now this is what's going to happen" began Zhi in a confident voice, "You are going to untie me and let me go or I turn little miss justice here into...I don't know a plum..you get the point!" Jie nodded and untied Zhi using bolt cutters.
Zhi brought his leg to himself and got up with a smile. Jie pointed to him angrily and shouted "I DID WHAT YOU ASKED NOW LET HER GO!"
With a flick of his wrist Zhi obliged. The wooden arm shot through the air and secured itself firmly onto his stump. The two vigilantes looked at him in horror, "What are you", Jie asked, his voice trembling.
Zhi smiled about to say something witty when he was interrupted by sound of smashed glass filled the room, and a single grey canister landed by his feet 'Avatar damn it. He leaped back and dived beneath the work bench as smoke and Equalists filled the room.When the smoke cleared he saw that Jun had been tied up. "Good work brother, another filthy bender off the streets" said an Equalist wearing a symbol on his arm. Probably in charge here thought Zhi
Jie shouted in objection "Th..th..tats not him, sh..she's with me!" his voice stammering.
The Equalist shrugged, "A bender is a bender. Amon will be pleased", Jie tried to jump at him but was tripped up and pinned down by another one behind him. "Regardless, this one is a metal bender, a symbol of the tyranny in this city. In time you will see things our way and thank us"
The Equalists pinning Jie jabbed him in the back and he shrieked in pain. Then they left with a tied up Jie struggling against her bonds. Zhi couldn't see but he thought he heard a discharge of one of those weapons Jie used on him. Then he heard the roar of their engines. He waited until he was sure they had left and came out of his hiding spot.
He saw Jie on the floor struggling to breathe. When he saw Zhi he spluttered something Zhi was sure was very obscene. Zhi turned to leave when he heard "NO DON'T GO!"
Zhi turned around slowly and saw Jie struggling to get up. Despite himself Zhi offered Jie a hand and helped him up. "Sorry", began Zhi, "I'm not in the mood to risk my life for her. Something to do with a lot of pain". He turned around again but Jie spun him around.
"HEY!" he cried. "You deserved it, you gangster types going around terrorizing innocent people. You don't care about others and tear entire streets apart just to make yourself a quick buck", Zhi just now noticed that Jie was significantly taller than him, nearly 7 ft.
"It's not a nice world Jie" replied Zhi, " Life isn't fair and some people need to do things to survive, even if it means hurting others to do it."
Jie sighed, "Look that doesn't matter. They are going to seriously hurt Jun and she hasn't done anything to deserve it"
"Err hello!" exclaimed Zhi pointing to his bloodied nose.
"You know what I mean, she's just sticking up for those who can't do it themselves. Even then I convinced her to do it. Not to mention that people who get sent to the Equalists don't come back"
"You do realise you were completely okay with handing me to them like 10 minutes ago" retorted Zhi. Seeing this as incredibly unfair life is unfair a voice in his head whispered.
"Look, the fact you're still talking to me proves you're a decent person. And I'm telling you that Jun is also. So I'm asking you as one decent human being to another, can you please help me?"
Zhi looked for an argument against this, but everything he came up with would just make him a low life. And even he liked to believe he lived by a code of sorts (even if he wasn't sure what it was). So begrudgingly he conceded, "Has anyone ever said you have a knack for politics?"
Jie smiled, "All the time".
Working with the mechanic
The two were in Zhi's car speeding through the streets of Republic City, which Jie had managed to fully restore along with planning Zhi's ambush. Jie was in the driver's seat, while Zhi sat next to him pouting. Though he had to admit, Jie was a much better driver than he was. Jie was playing with the radio searching through the channels filling the car with distorted cries and music.
"What are you doing?" asked Zhi.
"I put in a modified radio, it can listen in to all circuits. I'm hoping to find some chatter about the Equalists"
"Do I want to know why you put one in my car?" he asked
"Fair enough", Zhi conceded.
After a while Jie cried out, "Eureka!" and a grim voice from the radio said coldly;
"Extra defences required at Juqa factory before the rally"
"That them?" asked Zhi.
"Yup!" replied Jie enthusiastically, and turned the car around violently. Zhi fastened his seat belt as the engine began to roar louder and louder. "It's 30 minutes away, we'll get there in 10".
"So", began Zhi, "How do you know Jun?" he asked.
"We met two years ago, friends ever since" he said. Not taking his eyes off the road.
"So, you two an item?" asked Zhi with a smirk.
The car jerked suddenly to the side, causing Zhi to shriek slightly. "No, we are just friends" replied Jie in a dry voice.
Zhi made a pessimistic face, "Come on, you can tell me. Never gave her the good ol' nudge nudge wink wink?"
"Nope, and I'm not even sure what that is". Zhi clucked his tongue and shook his head, "You know she originally wanted to date you?"
Zhi was genuinely surprised at this, "No, I did not"
"Why did you think she invited you to the garage so late?" Jie asked
Zhi shrugged, "I thought it was a police ambush"
"I'm not sure whether to be impressed by your powers of observation or scared of your paranoia."
"Either works fine with me. Anyway, she's not my type"
"Brunet?" asked Jie
" I'm more into the Fire Nation types?"
"How's that worked out for you?"
Then the car let out a furious screech and the car went to a violent halt. "We're here" Jie said.
"Cool, what's the plan" asked Zhi, "Please tell me there's a real plan" dreading another just go in and deal with it idea.
"Of course there is" he retorted sounding slightly offended. He reached into the glove box and pulled out a pair of large gauntlets and masks. "We enter from the east window, 2nd floor. There we can sneak through the fire stairs to the basement where they are most likely holding her. If all goes well, we get in and out in less than 10"
Zhi smiled, he was liking this plan. It was well thought out and accurate. He needed more plans like that in his life. He put on the mask, it was black with white marks around the eyes and mouth.
The two climbed out the car and made their way to an alley, Jie bringing a tool kit with him. When they were directly beneath the window he pulled out a grappling hook and flung it with startling accuracy attaching it to the ledge. Jie then climbed hand over hand with a level of agility that Zhi would not expect of someone Jie's size.
Once he got up to the window, he took out a tool from his pocket and fiddled with the window. Within seconds he opened up the window and climbed in. He looked down at Zhi and gestured for him to hurry up and climb the rope. Zhi shook his head with a smile and extended his arm instead, pulling him up into the window in less than a second.
"That's a pretty useful tool you got there" remarked Jie.
"You think?" asked Zhi inspecting his hand he could sense it weakening, it needed to be planted soon or it would die, leaving him high and dry without an arm, "It can be a real pain".
Then a gruff voice from down the hall shouted out, "HEY, INTRUDERS!" An Equalists with a baton was running at them screaming . Zhi snapped his arm forwards and smashed in the Equalists' face, smashing the mask in two.
"Though it is growing on me" commented Zhi dryly. The sound of shouting echoed from down the hall. He could hear footsteps slamming on the floor. It was at least a dozen Equalists if not more.
"The fire stairs come on!" shouted Jie, Zhi turned around just in time to see Jie running down the corridor before making a left.
"WAIT FOR ME!" he cried as he ran after him. He got to a fire stairwell and ran in as Jie held the door open for him. When he entered, Jie closed the door behind him and using some chains held it shut.
"Lets' go" he said. The two ran down the stairs, Zhi felt it get colder and darker with every step he took. Until eventually he could barely see, that's when Jie stopped at a metal door. He crouched and began to mess with the lock, until there was a small "click" and he pushed it slowly open.
The moment he pushed it open Zhi hear a whizz and whuurrr. Before he could do or say anything a blinding flash of light decimated all his senses. Zhi fell face first onto the floor, the mask shattering. His head was filled with ringing like a thousand buzzard hornets were building a hive.
When he regained his senses he found himself on his belly being hog tied by an Equalist while Jie struggled with his attacker who had him firmly pinned down. The two made eye contact and Zhi gave him an unintentional smile. He kicked the Equalist with his wooded leg with a satisfying "crunch". He heard some shouts behind him, he sent water from his satchel over his head as he got up into a crouch. There were eight of them, and Jie was getting up shaking his head in an effort to clear it.
The Equalists ran at him and Jie all at once. Zhi threw a blast of water at one, the room was too small to allow them all to run at the same time, the water knocked the Equalist right to the floor. Before he could react a second one began to jab at him. He blocked the jabs with his wooden arm, the Equalist paused for a second in confusion. Giving Zhi enough time to leg sweep him and blast him into the other Equalists. As they struggled to get up Jie leaped onto them and began to systematically knock out each one with a tonfa.
Zhi looked around, he could see Jun bound and gagged in a cell, with several others, looking very confused. Zhi slashed at the bars with a blade of ice, opening the cell. He entered and untied her, he could hear some noises from the door. She undid her gag and asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Helping you, what's it look like?"
"Because shut up. We need to go" replied Zhi.
He turned around to see that Jie was leaning against the door as people slammed against it. "Jun!" he shouted, "GET US OUTTA HERE!" She looked at Zhi and bit her lip, confused. Then she turned around, she put her legs one shoulder length apart and with a sudden pushing motion smashed a tunnel upwards in the wall behind her.
"COME ON JIE!" she shouted, then put up a stone barrier between Jie and the door. He then ran first into the tunnel up onto the street the other prisoners following him. Zhi was reluctant to follow into the dark tunnel, worried she was going to bury him alive in some petty act of revenge.
She seemed to see his concern and quipped, "Don't worry cutie, I won't bury you alive or something. Now get going!" Zhi nodded and ran, trying not to think that with a small motion he have two tonnes of earth piled on top of him.
He got up to the surface and took a deep gulp of fresh air. It felt good to be under a nice sky again, rather than a suffocating chasm.
"Hey get in the car moron", cried a voice. He looked and saw Jun and Jie were in his car and ready to leave. The other prisoners had scattered in all directions. He ran and jumped into the back seat. The moment his foot touched the floor of the car, Jie slammed his foot on the pedal. Sending them flying forwards and Zhi's head back into his seat.
When Jie was satisfied no one was following them, he slowed down to near normal speed. Jun turned around and smiled, "Thanks for the save, I owe ya one."
Zhi sighed, "Buy us a dinner and we'll call it even"
Her smile turned into a giant toothy beam "Sure thing honey"
Zhi sighed again, "When I say us, I mean Jie and me"
Her smile faded, "Oh, okay"
Zhi smiled, "Don't take it personally, I just have a rule of never going out with anyone who head buts me in the face"
Jie laughed very loudly, Jun frowned for a second then began to laugh as well. After a while Zhi began to join in, the three of them laughing hysterically at a joke that wasn't even that funny. Zhi was tired and was ready to sleep, "I'm gonna have a nap okay"
"Go ahead, we'll drive you home" said Jie. And with that Zhi went to sleep trusting his friends to drive him home. I need better friends he thought while simultaneously hoping that this hero business wasn't going to stick.
"This is the third time", said Amon, "This bender has directly harmed our cause three times." He was looking out of a window, overlooking the entire city.
"Perhaps he is working for the council to undermine our efforts? Or maybe the White Lotus are weighing in earlier than anticipated?" suggested the Lieutenant.
"No", Amon retorted, "It is far more likely this is a powerful bender who has decided to take matters in his own hands to protect the city. Admirable but foolish. Did you retrieve it?"
"Yes sir, it is right here" The Lieutenant pulled out a pad of paper and handed it to Amon. "This time several of our brothers got a good look at him".
Amon looked down and at the pad, it was a detailed sketch of the vigilante. The Lieutenant continued, "Now that we know what he looks like we can find him and end him."
For the collective works of the author, go here.