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|Chapter Seven: Rattlesnake|
March 11, 2014
Taising grinned broadly as he looked out over the skyline of Ba Sing Se, where millions of points of lights flowed over the night time landscape and congratulated himself on a job well done. He had it all, now. The city was moving where he pointed, the charitable contributions were rolling in, and he even had this snazzy 'official' office and a brand new suit as his status symbol as a political leader.
Political leader! The title, handed to him during the myriad of television and radio he had given over the course of the past month just seemed to be the icing on the cake. But Taising wasn't a stupid man, not by a long shot. He knew that he would have to measure his rants and his edicts carefully, lest his legion of brainless fans start demanding more than protests. He had already heard the stirrings of it, some of the more extremist members of his group demanding action against the Avatar that went well above the level of waving a few signs and shouting a few slogans. The idea of actually having to hurt a little girl, guilty of crimes only because of circumstance of her birth, didn't appeal to him.
His musings were interrupted when his office door opened. Po, one of his best and brightest right hands--and who had been a loyal lap dog since middle school-stepped into the room. Taising swiveled in his chair, the ice in his glass of alcohol clinking. "Yeah?"
"There's a kid here to see you," Po said.
Taising looked at him incredulously. "You think I'd want to talk to some kid?"
Po grinned. "You'll want to talk to this one."
Taising shrugged, which was signal enough to let the kid in. Taising wasn't impressed by what he saw. Short, fat, his eyes and face eager. Yeah, fan boy. Kid just wanted an autograph. The political leader turned a scathing eye on Po.
Po smirked, looking at the boy. "Tell him what you told me."
The boy nodded, then seemed to fall dumb. He blinked several times, he was suddenly starting to sweat.
"I ain't got time for this," Taising said, starting to swivel his chair toward the window again.
The boy squeaked. "My name's Otoshi Jintaro. Nanaki's my sister, and she's staying at Miss Chu's tea shop on Main and Seventh. I told some of your people and they said I should come tell you."
Taising brought his chair to a halt, turned it slowly back to face the boy who was now grinning like a stupid, drunk elephant.
Taising felt a sudden coldness. This idiot had just handed his extremist members the key they would need to not just protest the Avatar, but to end her.
Hours later, Taising was standing on the balcony. Under him, the great city of Ba Sing Se was abound with lights under a moonless night. He gripped the railing lightly with one hand, his other free to hold a smoldering coffin-stick which, though burned halfway down, wasn't yet brought to his lips.
The door behind him opened, and Po stepped out to join him.
"How did it go?" The huge man asked.
Taising shook his head. "The kid's an idiot," he said. "He may think he hates his sister, but he doesn't. He's just too stupid to think she might actually get hurt."
Po remained passive.
"I met at the meeting," he said.
Taising frowned. He related at length the impromptu meeting that had been called. More than three dozen Unbelievers had packed into the room, most of them demanding immediate action against the Avatar, now that it was known where she was hiding. Try as he might, Taising had been unable to keep order. Finally, in frustration and anger he had shouted, asking them if they expected him to go out and ace the kid.
He was silent for a long time. Finally, Po sniffed and adjusted his glasses.
"And?" He asked.
Taising flipped the coffin-stick off the balcony.
"They thought it was a good idea," said. "They said yes. That's exactly what they want me to do."
He turned and looked at Po.
Po looked back, unmoved.
"Then that's what you'll have to do," he said. Bowing once, he turned and went back inside.
Taising looked up at the black sky overhead and wondered, for just a moment, if the Avatar was looking at that sky too and what she would have advised him to do.
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