The Gathered
Chapter information

Shadows of Equality



Written by


Release date

February 23, 2014

Last chapter

Chapter 4: Recruiting Drive Part 3

Next chapter

Chapter 6: Welcoming Party

Dawn breaks in the early hours of the city as Sun and Haga report back from their fruitless search to find Binh to the boys parents. "Rest assured, we'll do all we can to bring him home. You have my word." Sun bows lightly to the couple as she and her teammate get into a nearby Satomobile and proceed to head back to the Equalist base. As they make their way back to Amon's base of operations, Sun notices her partner has a very dejected look about him and decides to comment on it. "Something bothering you?"

The man, leaning against the door, resting his elbow on the window frame sits back in his seat and stairs up at the ceiling. "Did you see the way that kid looked when he figured out who we were? These kids, they're terrified of us." he looks out the window as they pass a group of earthbending children as they play a game of ball with their abilities just as they turn off the road and into an alleyway that leads down into a large ditch which spans most of the city's outer limits. Sun presses a button under the dashboard that opens a tunnel as the vehicle drives in and the entrance shuts behind them. "I looked at him and I saw my own kids and I thought, 'What would they think if the same think was happening to them?'. Maybe this whole thing is getting out of hand. I mean grabbing people in the middle of the night."

Sun slams her foot on the brake when she hears this. Fortunately for the two they are wearing seat belts and the backlash is not nearly as bad as it would have been otherwise. "Haga listen, what we do is protect the people of Republic City. Not the council, not the police, and not the Avatar. All this we do, it's necessary because if we don't protect the non-benders, who will? That kid, yeah he's scared. But he's scared because of the lies that those benders are feeding him, him and every other person in this city." she proceeds down the seemingly endless tunnel, the only light domes from the dim orange bulbs which sporadically dot the ceiling, washing over the vehicle in a strobe like effect.

"Things seem out of hand because we're shaking up the established order and that's what scares people. They're afraid to embrace the change that's coming and they shouldn't. But the benders, they can't stand to lose the power they have over us, so they lie and brainwash kids like Binh into thinking that we're the evil ones. We're not evil, we just have ideals that don't fall into what's best for a bender. Right?" Haga hesitates to answer at first, taking a long pause. He then looks up as they reach the end of the tunnel where many of their Equalist brothers and sisters are at work.

"Right." Sun can tell that his heart is not in the answer and puts a reassuring hand on his shoulder as they exit the vehicle.

On the east end of the city Adi of the Rabaroos is starting her morning while her teammates are still fast asleep. She puts on a light set of flexible pants and a shirt to cover up and heads to the roof of their small apartment. She steps out to let the rays of the rising sun warm her as she goes through her firebending forms, moving in elegant steps across the building top. She unleashes short bursts of flames from her feet and fingertips as she proceeds. After a short series of these warm ups, Adi performs a series of fast punches and kicks, aiming at three targets posted on the opposite side of the roof, hitting each one near the center mark. "Almost." she smiles at her work before performing her breath controls. After she has finished her workout she heads back inside and, grabbing a towel from the bathroom, wipes the sweat from her face and neck.

"Nice of you to join us." She turns to see Umi seated in the kitchen sipping a glass of juice while Ula stands at the stove preparing breakfast. "I don't get how you manage to waste two hours on the roof every day. There's plenty of other things to do with your time."

"You mean like sleep two extra hours?" Adi gives the waterbender a smirk as she stands in the doorway.

"Don't knock it. It'll do wonders for those wrinkles. By the way could you get the mail. I'd do it myself but I don't want to." Umi leans back in her chair, looking up at her teammate, who is not pleased with being ordered around by her lazy friend.

Adi looks up at Ula who is still cooking and remembers the talk the three had the day before. She stops, takes in a deep breath, then speaks. "Of course your highness, it would be my honor." she playfully bows before heading to the front door.

"Okay now I'm confused."

Ula chuckles a bit as she turns for a moment. "Never thought I'd see the day when you were at a loss for words." The earthbender brings the food over to the table as Umi helps herself. The two hear a loud scream from Adi that causes them to dash to the front of the apartment. "What is....oh." The trio are shocked to find Binh sleeping on the front steps.

He slowly opens his eyes and looks up at his friends. "Are you alright, what are you doing out here?" He doesn't give an answer, instead bursting into tears and sobbing uncontrollably. Adi hugs him close to calm him down. "It's okay. It's gonna be okay." the group head inside as they sit him at the kitchen table and he begins to explain what's happened.

"Wow. I never would have believed your parents of all people. They seemed so nice to us all the time." Ula gives the still shaking young man a cup of tea as he attempts to keep his hands steady.

"So you've been running all night from two bender hating Equalist agents, and you came here? Why didn't you call the police or the council?" Umi looks through a slit in the blinds to make sure no unfamiliar faces are anywhere near the building.

Adi places a reassuring hand on his shoulder as he looks up slightly. "Cut him some slack, he's lucky to have made it through the night. My cousin in the Agni Kai triad said he saw the Avatar get taken down by these guys a few weeks ago and she's one of the toughest benders around. You did good Binh, not many others could have done what you did."

"Thanks guys. I knew I couldn't go to the police station. They'd probably be waiting for me there and it's impossible to see any of the council members without an appointment... even if you do mention that your parents are Equalists."

"So what do we do now? Your parents are going to be looking for you and it won't be long for them to figure out where else you might go."

"What are you suggesting?" Umi looks over to her friend before finally putting two and two together. "Don't tell me."

Later that evening many of the members of Firuz's task force are out and about per their commander's orders, saying goodbye to family and friends, explaining that they won't be seeing them for sometime, being very vague as to the reason. As all the activity goes on a lone woman makes her way home with two large bags of groceries. She walks up the steps of her apartment, fumbling with her keys as she balances the bags in her arms. As she turns her key and opens the door she can hear the voices of her two young children, Genma and Kenta, playing and laughing just on the other side of the door. "Okay you two, how about helping me with these groceries before you..." She pauses as she sees Kenta excitedly running through the house being chased by his brother Genma, who is riding on the shoulders of a surprise guest, their father and her ex-husband. "Husam?"

"Hey mom, dad's home." Kenta shouts as he runs back into the room.

"I can see that." She gives a feigned attempt at excitement, none to pleased with the unexpected visitor.

"Zira, how have you been?" Husam places his youngest son on the ground as he greets their mother.

"Fine." She looks at him cautiously as she places the bags on the ground. "Why don't you boys go get washed up for dinner and I'll call yo when it's ready?"

"Okay mom." The two rush up stairs as the two adults take a few seconds to look each other over.

"So Zira, you look good." Husam nervously comments, almost stuttering over his words . Despite his line of work he'd always found himself more intimidated by her than he was with even Lightning Bolt Zolt himself.

"I see you haven't cut back on meals." She pokes him in the stomach mockingly. Ever since they were teenagers their figures had always been the exact opposites of each other, his rather overweight build in direct contrast to her light and dainty one.

"Yeah, well haha." he rubs the back of his head in slight embarrassment.

Zira sighs as she decides not to beat around the bush with her ex any longer than she needs to. "You know you're not supposed to be anywhere near me or the boys. So what do you want?"

"I've got a job offer for something real big going on and I won't be around for a while. Just wanted to say goodbye to the boys before I left."

"I'm not surprised. Why should I expect anything less with the company you keep?"

"Do we really need to go back to this again?"

"You work for some of the poorest excuses for human beings, you go out and do the spirits knows what with whoever you want, and then act like nothing's wrong. So yes, we're back to this again."

"Okay here we go. You know what, why don't you just get off my back. I make my own way in this city the same as everyone else."

"I'm pretty sure everyone else doesn't smuggle goods, blackmail officers and make people disappear. Some of us have honest work. Some of us pull double shifts. Some of us are busy supporting a family on one income because a no good dead beat ran out on us."

"You threw me out, let's not forget that."

"Yes I did, because of what you do and because of the danger my children are in if they're ever around you!"

"Everything I do is for them."

"No everything you do is for yourself. You couldn't even be bothered to be there when Genma was born. But now I get it. You like all the violence and the lawlessness. You like the power it gives you. You can't help yourself, because no matter how much you get, you always have to have more, even if you lose what you had."

Husam puts his hand to his forehead in frustration. For as much as he hated hearing it, he couldn't help but agree with some of what she was saying. "Look I just came by to give you this. It'll help." he pulls an envelop out of a pocket in his vest and hands it to her. Zira looks down at it, shaking her head.

She proceeds to slap the envelop out of his hands. "Get out." She clenches her fists as Husam reaches down to grab his gift.

"What's your problem? I came here to help."

"We don't need your help. We're doing fine on our own without your blood money."

"Really?" he grabs a stack of letters off the small hall table next to him. "Overdue bills, unpaid loans. Yeah you're doing fine."

"Look I have problems. That's certainly no lie, but they're my problems not yours. I'm trying my best to raise two firebending boys in all this anti-bending mess and it doesn't help that their daddy is one of the people that adds to every non-bender thinking they are evil. I don't have the luxury of turning off my morals and doing whatever it takes to get what I want. I'm just trying to raise my boys to respect the law and do what's right and I'd appreciate it if you just left them and me alone!"

Husam can see Zira is shaking, trying to hold back tears and decides not to further upset her. "Okay I get it and you're right, I shouldn't be here. I'm going." he makes his way to the door and lets himself out. "Just tell the boys I've got some business to take care of out of town." he stops before shutting the door. "Zira I know I owe you and the boys more than I can give. This isn't from the Triads and it's not stolen. I dare to say it's the most honest money I've ever made in my life." He puts the envelope down by the door. "I just need you to believe me when I say I'm trying to do right this time."

The firebender returns to his Satomobile and drives to pick up Seok who is supposedly saying his goodbyes to his girlfriend. He waits patiently for his partner to exit the building as he sits in the vehicle, checking his pocket watch every so often to make sure the two won't miss the meeting time. Just as he checks his time piece for the twelfth time he sees a burst of fire that shatters a window on the second floor of the building Seok is in. Husam looks up as shards of glass and bits of brick reign down onto the hood and roof. Not long after a much larger mass crashes onto the roof of the Satomobile, cracking the windshield, rolling onto the hood. "Seok?" Husam is astonished as the earthbender rolls off of the front and falls to the ground before picking himself up and hoping into the passenger's seat.

"Drive." Seok puts his seat belt on as his friend still stares. A fireball from above hits the roof as a woman leaning out of the whole in the wall begins lobbing attacks at them, or more accurately, Seok. "Drive!" he shouts as he steps on the gas and the vehicle darts off.

"She didn't take it well?"

"No, it went down like a dream. That is until she found out I was dating her sister." The two share a chuckle until the pain finally catches up with Seok. Husam takes the vehicle off the main road to a small, out of the way detour that looks to be no more than a dead end near the docks. As they approach a hatch appears near the end, an opening ramp created by earthbending. The Satomobile touches onto the ramp and descends into a series of cave like tunnels, on the way down passing two men who promptly shut the entrance behind them. They pass down several hundred yards until they finally reach the main cavern where Firuz's task group call home. The pair hop out of the car to encounter two guards arguing with four teenagers, three girls and a boy. Hasook stands by his bike watching the whole thing go down as his friends approach him. "Hey Hasook, thought we were meeting up at the diner. What happened?"

"Had some stuff to take care of. Nothing important." he says nonchalantly as the three look back toward the argument.

"I don't care who he is, he's not authorized and It's not going to be my head for letting him in." One of the guards continues as the leader of the group, a girl with short auburn hair, stands in defiance of the man's words.

"Well we're not leaving until we speak with Firuz. Our friend here needs help and we aim to get it."

"What's the problem here?" The group turns as the black-haired Kiri introduces herself into the conversation. "My name is Kiri and I'm..." she stops as Seok winks at her, to which she responds by rolling her eyes and getting back to the task at hand. "I'm commander Firuz's personal aid. So what seems to be the problem?"

"We're the Rabaroos. I'm Adi, this is Ula and Umi. We received an invitation to take part in, well, whatever it is you're doing here."

"Then let me be the first to officially welcome you. I've heard nothing but good things about you over the radio. Who's this?" Kiri notes the young man behind them to which Umi steps up.

"This is our friend Binh. He almost got grabbed by two Equalists last night and so we brought him here for help. The police won't listen and neither will the council. He's got no where else to go and this mook won't let him in."

"He's not authorized and I have specific orders from the commander not to let him in." The guard holds staunchly to his stance.

"Well in case you haven't been paying attention the commander makes all his decisions based off my analysis of any given situation at any time. I think this boy is a point of interest to us and I'd appreciate it if you would stand aside and let me handle this. Is that understood?"

"Yes ma'am, sorry ma'am." The guard takes his leave, attending to his post.

"I like you already." Umi puts her arm around Kiri. "I think we'll get along just fine." She stops as Ula clears her throat so as to remind her of their previous commitment. "Oh right, well Adi can tell you." she steps back as the groups leader informs their greeter.

"We've all talked it over and, as much as we'd like to help you now we do have the pro-bending tournament coming up soon and we need to prepare for that. But we do promise our support afterward and we hope that in return you'll allow Binh to remain here where he'll be safe."

"Of course. I understand completely and I'm sure our commander will as well. If you have time we are gathering all the volunteers together for a short speech. I promise it won't take more than a few minutes of your time and than I promise you can be on your way."

"What do you say girls, we can spare a few minutes right?" Ula and Umi both give a resounding yes. The group head in to a side room where many other men and women have gathered. As the group make their way to the center of the room Ula bumps into a man with long hair and an unkempt beard, knocking him to the ground.

"Sorry about that." She offers her hand and lifts him up with little to no effort.

"No problem at all. Probably all this hair, couldn't see a badgermole on the side of me if it was six inches away from me. I was thinking of cutting it a bit. My name's Soza by the way."

"Ula." as the two continue to converse Firuz takes the stage, everyone proceeds to settle down as he takes to the podium and up to the microphone.

"I'd like to have everyone's attention please. First off I'd like to thank you all for accepting our invitation. Secondly I want to just clear the air here and explain exactly what it is we're trying to accomplish. As you know our city is under siege by Amon and his Equalists. He speaks of equality but I think we all know what he has in store for every bender, whether they be man, woman, or child. This is not a revolution, this is genocide, pure and simple and I for one will not sit idly by and leave such an important task as defending this city, our city to that egomaniac Tarrlok or the untested Avatar Korra. That is why I have called you all here to aid me in this most important goal. I know many of you are giving of your time in other endeavors to assist us. Know that those sacrifices not go unrewarded and you will all be more than reimbursed for your efforts." Firuz pauses to look over the large group before another man takes the stage alongside him.

"This is the Captain. He's my second-in-command and he'll be planning our operations against the Equalists. Before we conclude he'd like to say a few words. Captain." Firuz steps down as the red-capped man takes the stage.

"I've never been one for long winded speeches unless they're necessary so I'll make this short and to the point. We're all on the same side here, we all came here together because we have a common enemy. Whatever any of us is out there, outside these walls, doesn't matter. So whatever it is you do out on those streets, in your homes, in the darkest, seediest back alley; you keep it to yourself in here. All you need to know is the name of the guy next to you and where you need to be and what you need to be doing on your next mission. One more thing I'd like to state before I'm done: I do not tolerate loose lips under my command. You will not talk to your friends, family, that little kid on the corner that shines your shoes for a yuan about what we're doing here. Any talk of our work will be considered an act of treason against this force and against the republic you serve and will be dealt with appropriately and harshly!" He slams his hand on the podium, allowing a fireball to engulf it, reducing it to ash as his hat flies into the air.

Everyone is speechless, some sweating and a bit nervous as they wait to see what will happen next. While Ula and the others look on in silent fear, she notices Soza has an approving smile. "Hasn't changed a bit have you old friend?"

The Captain stops to compose himself, replacing his intense stare with a friendly smile and retrieving his hat from the ground, placing it firmly on his head. "So, let's get to work."

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