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May 26, 2016
Alex adjusts to his new life in Republic City.
Three Months Later.
It's hard to believe that all this time has passed since that day. When I came to, I was on a couch in some rich person's sitting room. It turns out that it belonged to that girl that almost ran me over. Her name is Asami, Asami Sato. She took me back to her house after I passed out, figuring that I didn't look like I was in bad enough shape to warrant a trip to the hospital.
Considering that I had no idea where I was, and that the last thing that had happened to me had been a lab accident, I played the old memory loss card. I told Asami only my name and a few vague details about what had happened before she had nearly run me over. My hope had been that I was in New York or San Francisco, someplace that was only a plane ride away from home.
I couldn't have been more wrong if I had tried.
It turns out I was in some place called Republic City. When I asked Asami for a map, so that I could see if any locations sounded familiar, I discovered that I wasn't even on Earth anymore. At least, not the Earth I had known. But what I did know was this: wherever that damn contraption of Tannan's had sent me, I was too far from home to try and go back. Luckily for me, Asami was generous enough to offer me a place to stay, with her father's permission of course.
Sticking to my story of memory loss, I spent the next few weeks learning all I could about this new world. They're way behind us in terms of technology, only sitting at about the 1920s or so. On top of that, it turns out that this place has a group of people called benders, people who can control the classical elements. I didn't really believe Asami's description that people could do that, until she dragged me out into the city and I witnessed the strange abilities myself.
But other people's abilities wasn't the only thing I found strange.
It started off small, a few static shocks here, the flicker of a light bulb there, even my cell phone's battery kept fluctuating. I passed it off as the changing of the seasons, summer turning into fall and static electricity being built up as a result. It wasn't until about two weeks after the accident that things really started to take a turn for the weird.
At first, it was the increase in shocks when I was around power outlets and touching metal. Then the radio would spew out static whenever I tried to touch a dial. It wasn't until light bulbs started to explode that I acknowledged that whatever was happening wasn't natural. Then, two weeks to the day after the accident, it finally happened; I shot lightning from my fingertips.
Both Asami and I were in her garage, working on a car when it happened. I made the mistake of touching a wire to the car's battery and gave myself quite the shock. But rather than be injured, I felt invigorated, like I just had just down several energy drinks. As I turned to grab a nearby wrench, the bolt shot from my fingertips, sending said wrench flying across the room.
Needless to say, it scared the ever living crap out of both of us. But my two weeks of weirdness finally made sense. I could, somehow, control electricity. Asami, being a good friend and downright genius, instantly volunteered to help me figure the whole thing out. We ran all kinds of tests and experiments and research, trying to figure out the bounds of this thing. To my disappointment we found that I was not a bender. Lightningbenders, firebenders who can generate and redirect lightning, simply didn't have the control I had. When we first started, I could barely even power a light bulb. Since then, though, I've grown more powerful, and I've learned basic control over it.
Learning how to control my new abilities wasn't the only thing I've spent these past three months doing. Being cooped up in the Sato Mansion with electrical powers wasn't the best idea, what with me tending to get stir crazy from being cooped up so long. So I went out into the city and found a job with a small courier company.
Working with the company gave me some insight into the city layout. It also gave me eyes and ears all over the place to find Kelly, as well as a means of staying in shape. Of course, it also came with its own unique set of problems. My friend in the company, Han, taught me most of the new skills I picked up. But, despite having a good head on his shoulders, he has a tendency to get us into sticky situations sometimes...
"I thought you said you had a way out of this, or is that another thing you made up on the fly?!" Alex shouted as he barreled down the alleyway. He easily cleared a pair of trash cans with a leap, vaulting himself over the metal containers with his hands. Beside him, his friend Han sprinted as well.
"I said I do have a way out, I just can't remember if its on Roku or Suki street!" he shouted back. The pair bounded off of a stack of wooden pallets and cleared the chain link fence that was blocking their path.
"There's almost five blocks between the two! You didn't think to do a little footwork before you took this job?!"
"I ran the route! I just wasn't expecting this much attention!" As if on cue, a red and gold Satomobile slid to a halt, blocking the alleyway's mouth and their way forward. Adding insult to injury, the sound of an air raid siren filled the air as a Police airship appeared overhead.
"Just stay on my ass!" Alex shouted over the noise before he yanked the hood on his hoodie up and took off at a full sprint. The Triple Threat Triad members that were climbing out of the car originally had their attention of them, but they had shifted their gaze skyward with the arrival of the airship.
With nimble stride, Alex slid across the hood of the car, taking care to drag his hand along behind him before he pushed off again. The running vehicle sputtered and died as the teen cleared the machine, even its headlights went out. By the time Han copied Alex's movement's from a millisecond earlier, the car was totally devoid of power. The two of them didn't stick around to see the Triad's reaction, opting instead to sprint for the nearest alley.
"What exactly is this way out of yours anyway?" Alex asked, out of breath as they came to a halt in a small intersection of the alley. Ahead of them, the alley continued on normally. To their left, it angled upward slightly with a stone wall, a set of stairs, and a dumpster. On the right, it opened into a small overhang with a single metal door in the brick wall.
"It are the old steam and utility tunnels. They lead under Triple Threat territory. No one goes down there, except maybe the hobos," Han said as he bent over, placing his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. Alex's look turned to one of surprise, then a mixture of anger and annoyance.
"I know which entrance you're talking about, it's on Khan Street you idiot!" he shouted, smacking him once upside the head before he ran toward the stairs.
"Ow! What was that for?" Han asked, rubbing the back of his head before he took off after his friend.
"For trying to get us either arrested or killed because of your stupidity!" As the two of them exited the alley for the second time, a spotlight suddenly illuminated them. They slid to a halt, holding their hands up in an effort to keep the light from blinding them.
"Republic City Police! Stay where you are!"
Twenty four hours earlier...
Alex leaned against the wooden telephone pole with his arms folded. His fingertips tapped impatiently against his arm as he waited. It was dusk, and his shift was almost over. This was his last delivery of the day, and then he'd get paid and he could properly start his weekend. An elderly woman walked out of a nearby restaurant and handed him a large brown package.
"June Akita. She's aboard the Kumano, airship dock number six. You know it, don't you Alex dear?" she asked before slipping him a large pink wad of yuans.
"I know it, Ms. Takana," he said with a small grin. This wasn't his first delivery to the docks for the old woman. Securing the money in his pocket and firmly tucking the package in the crook of his arm, Alex bade Ms. Takana farewell and took of a quick but steady pace.
It was a relatively short trip to the airship docks, little more than a couple of blocks. Alex made good time getting his destination at little more than jog. The airship was easy enough to find. Finding a crew member was a little more challenging. He circled the large craft once, searching the rounded sides for a crew member.
"You lost, boy?" came a voice from overhead. Alex jerked his head upwards and found himself looking at a young woman wearing a white shirt and brown overalls. She was hanging from the hull by a harness, her black hair was tied back into a ponytail, and a pair of brass goggles rested on her forehead.
"Ms. Takana sent over some takeout again, June," Alex replied, holding the package up. June rolled her eyes before she tugged on a section of her harness. Instantly, she was lowered to the dock next to the young courier.
"I love grandma, but she really needs to find a better way to send food than a courier company," she said, flashing Alex a small grin to show that she was teasing. He simply shrugged as he handed the package over.
"Have you seen or heard anything?" he asked, a hint of seriousness in his voice. June's eyes changed from teasing to somber as she tucked the package under her arm.
"Sorry, Alex. No one between here and Omashu has seen or heard of a girl matching her description. Wherever this Kelly girl of yours is, she's not along my route." Alex sighed, but he gave June a sad smile.
"Thank you anyway. Let me know if anything changes," he said, turning and jogging away, giving June a wave over his shoulder. Three months, and he still had no word on either Kelly or Tannan. They had been caught in the explosion, same as him. If he had wound up here, there was nothing that said they didn't either.
Of course, that also meant there was the possibility they were developing strange powers of their own. He hadn't known Tannan long enough to really care about him, but Kelly was his childhood friend. It worried him that she might be going through the same things he was, only out on her own. He'd gotten lucky when he met Asami right after appearing here. He doubted Kelly was able to share his luck.
"Hey you, Courier!" The roar of a souped up car engine brought Alex out of his thoughts as he came to a halt. A red and gold car pulled up beside him with the window down. Inside, a man wearing a bowler hat, tan jacket, and a cocky grin looked him up and down. Alex was instantly on alert when he saw the man and the car. He'd been around enough to know which organization the man represented.
"I got a package for you to deliver," the man said, holding aloft a small brown box. Alex frowned as he leaned forward, placing his hands on the car's roof. The Triads usually only hired couriers to deliver packages when they wanted the delivery to be untraceable. That meant the package was one of two things: drugs, or a bomb.
"You got payment?" he asked. The man flashed him a grin as he held up a large wad of cash. Alex took the money and looked it over before he nodded once at the man.
"Take this to the Sunrise Diner, in Dragon Flats," the man said as he handed him the package. The instant the box entered Alex's hands, he knew exactly what was contained inside. He could feel the power coming from the small battery that was powering the bomb, like his fingers were resting on a pulse.
"Don't worry, it's in good hands," Alex said with a smile, placing his hand back on the roof of the car. Instantly, the car sputtered and died. A string of curses flew from the Triad member's mouth as he turned the keys and tried to start his car in vain. Alex smirked to himself as he jogged off. There was no way the man could know that he had just drained his car's battery of power.
As he rounded a corner, Alex tore the lid off of the box and looked the device over. It was little more than a bundle of dynamite wired to a battery and an egg timer. He rolled his eyes at the simplicity and cheapness of the device before he pinched the battery. A few sparks flew from his fingers as he felt the electricity flow into him.
Alex took a breath in through his nose as he closed his eyes. He felt awake, alive, like he could do anything. His senses were heightened as well. The sounds of the city were clearer, the smells crisper and more defined. Opening his eyes again, he cracked his neck before he started walking.
"If this was a drug, I'd say I have a problem," he said to himself as he crossed a small canal, absentmindedly throwing the now harmless explosive into the water below. Smiling, he took off a jog again. He had a little extra money in his pocket, he was finally free for the night, and he was headed for one of his favorite hangouts.
Narook's Seaweed Noodlery.
"One glass of Dragon's Bite," Alex said as he placed a yuan on the bar and took a seat on a stool. The bartender happily scooped up the bill before placing a glass and a bottle of ruby red liquid on the bar before the young man.
"Started without me?" came a voice behind him. Alex glanced over his shoulder and grinned. Standing a short distance away was his friend Han. A lanky and dark young man of Water Tribe origin, Han wore a pair of gray trousers, brown boots, and an olive drab shirt.
"Haven't even popped the cork yet," Alex said as he motioned for Han to take a seat next to him.
"So how was your shift?" Han asked as he sat down and took the glass that was offered to him.
"I had some Triad member try to get me to deliver a bomb somewhere in Dragon Flats," Alex replied as he popped the cork from the bottle and filled both of their glasses.
"What did you do?"
"I took the guy's money, disarmed the bomb, and threw it into the canal over by Fourth Street." Han grinned before he raised his glass.
"To the Triads. May their stupidity continue to line our pockets," he said. Alex laughed before he clinked his glass against his friend's. The two downed their drinks in one go before refilling the glasses again.
"So I'm thinking on doing the Kyoshi Run," Han said as he swirled the drink around. Alex froze before looking at his friend and setting his glass on the bar.
"I think you've had enough," he said as he reached for Han's drink.
"No man, I'm serious. The money is good, and we know the routes better than anyone," Han argued while moving his cup out of reach. The infamous Kyoshi Run was the nickname given to a smuggling route set up by the Terra Triad. If offered a large sum of money as payment, but required that the courier traveled through rival Triad territories. The danger wasn't just from the rival Triads, but also from the Police. Lin Beifong herself had vowed to shut down the route, making it all that more difficult.
"I've been in this city three months, Han, I'm not that eager to get sent off to prison or the morgue," Alex said.
"No, no, hear me out. I got the details of all possible routes for the Run. I'm telling you we know this area, we can do this!" Something about the way Han spoke made Alex narrow his eyes in suspicion.
"You already took the job, didn't you?" Han rubbed the back of his head sheepishly. Alex sighed as he sat his glass back down on the bar.
"Alex, man, I've already gone over the route three times. I'm telling you, I can do it, all I need is someone to run interference for me in case things get hectic."
"You're gonna do it whether I agree to help or not, aren't you?" Han simply shook his head.
"Don't back out of a deal with the Triads, you know that." Alex sighed again before he picked up his glass, downed what was left of his drink, and slammed it back down onto the bar.
"Fine, I'll help. But only 'cause your stupid ass is gonna get yourself killed if I don't," he said before he stood up from the bar.
"Where are you going?"
"Back to my place, I suddenly don't feel much like drinking."
"Ah, I love music hour," Asami said as she reclined on a couch. Smooth jazz flowed out of a nearby radio, giving the room a calm, soothing atmosphere.
"Why do I have to do this?" Alex asked as he stood in the corner with an irritated look on his face. He was holding the radio's power cable in his hand, allowing a flow of electricity to power the device. They were in one of the mansion's garages, which had been hurriedly converted to a lab of sorts. A few car batteries sat on a table, lights of various sizes were scattered around, and several mannequins stood about with missing limbs and scorch marks.
"It's good practice for controlling your output, and it helps me relax," the heiress replied without opening her eyes. Alex shot her a glare, but maintained his posture.
"I'm not a human battery."
"Technically you kind of are," she said. He opened his mouth to start a retort but stopped and clenched his teeth. She was right, he was basically a human battery. Raising his free hand, Alex flicked his wrist like he was lightly tossing a ball. A small bolt of electricity flew from his hand and hit a nearby battery. Instantly, a lamp and another radio that were hooked to the battery came to life. Satisfied with himself, Alex dropped the power cable he was holding and flopped down in a spare chair.
"You okay?" Asami asked, opening her eyes and sitting up slightly to look at him.
"Just a little tired is all. Constantly powering a radio takes more juice than you'd think," Alex replied as he leaned back, looking upward lazily. It wasn't the whole truth, but he didn't want Asami worried about the situation Han had gotten them into.
"Have you told anyone else yet?" she asked. He simply shook his head, continuing to look at the ceiling.
"Not even Han?"
"Han is a good friend, but he's horrible at keeping secrets."
"You know you're gonna have to tell someone at some point. You keep getting more and more powerful, sooner or later someone will notice."
"And what am I suppose to do, Asami? Walk into the Police Headquarters and say 'look what I can do'?"
"It might be just that simple, yes."
"I'm a non bender who can control electricity. Best case, I get strange looks from everyone. Worst case, I wind up strapped to a lab table somewhere," he said. Truth be told, Alex wasn't sure how people would react when they found out what he could do. Back home, everything he had just said was true. But here? Where the ability to throw fire or rock or water around without touching them was an everyday thing? There were simply too many factors to take into account.
"Well, maybe you don't have to open up with something as dramatic then. If not Han, what about that one girl who works on the airships?"
"June? I deliver egg rolls to her for her grandmother, that doesn't exactly suggest the level of friendship that warrants a sudden revel of the ability to shoot lightning from my fingertips."
"Just tell someone, Alex. Keeping this all to yourself isn't going to do you any favors," Asami said. Alex shot her a glance, a tired but cheeky grin forming on his lips.
"Why, Ms. Sato, is it possible that you're getting tired of keeping me all to yourself? Are you thinking of sharing me with one of your girlfriends?" he asked. Asami sat upright on the couch and glared at him, her face turning a pale red as she registered the way he had chosen his wording.
"Alex Chambers, you of all people should know that I would never share without asking you first!" she snapped. She saw the grin on Alex's face widen, and she suddenly went from a pale red to a dark crimson as she realized her own words.
"I mean...that's not...you know," she stuttered. But Alex stood up, silencing her.
"As fun as it is to watch you make a fool of yourself, I'm going to go turn in for the night," he said, ending the conversation and saving Asami from further embarrassment. He had found that situations like these were rather amusing to him. Not to mention that Asami looked cute when she was flustered. Wait, cute? Where did that come from?
'Focus, Alex. Don't go getting all head over heals for Asami now, not while Kelly is still out there.'
"Well, shit," Alex said as they looked upward at the airship. His hood was doing a decent job of hiding his face, but he still held his hand up both to block the light and keep the cops from getting a good look at him.
"We're on Khan Street now, right?"
"Run." The hissing sound of a metalbender firing a cable reached their ears, and both teens jumped to the side as the cable impacted the concrete where they had just been standing. Rather than wait for the next set of cables, they sprinted away from the airship and up the street, with Alex once again taking the lead.
Car horns blared as they ran through traffic, trying to put some distance between themselves and the Police. As they ran, their chances seemed to fade even more as a second airship appeared overhead, its siren wailing. Spotting the next alley that they were headed for, Alex tried to pick up the pace again. But the sound of more cables being fired made him dive and roll forward in an effort to dodge them.
Han, however, wasn't so lucky, quickly becoming entangled in a throng of cables.
"Finish the Run!" he shouted, tossing Alex a small brown package before he was yanked skyward, vanishing into the night and the hold of an airship. Alex slipped the package into his pocket as he sprinted into the alleyway. He bounded over the railing of a small stairway that led into a building's basement. Landing at the base of the stairs, he kicked the door in and ran inside.
Alex wasn't overly worried about his friend at that moment. Without the package, the most the cops had on him was resisting arrest, a very mild offense compared to smuggling and one that Han was familiar with. More than once, he'd bailed his friend out of jail after a drunken night had turned into a brawl.
His primary concern was being caught himself. If he was arrested with the package, then the Police had evidence of them smuggling. And that meant jail time. Reaching a section of the basement that had hard wood flooring rather than concrete, Alex began to stomp his boots. He was not going to prison, not for Han's stupid mistake, or for the Triads.
The ghost of a grin graced his lips as he heard a section of the floor echo. Dropping to a knee, Alex quickly ripped the trapdoor open and looked down into the dark tunnel below. He could see the cobwebs that had formed in the tunnel thanks to years of minimal use, he could even see the little mutant freaks that the locals called spider rats hanging in their webs. Alex hated spiders, and he hated rats, but to be trapped in a close space with a creature that was somehow both? God had a harsh sense of humor.
The sound of more sirens reached his ears from the outside, indicating that more cops were showing up, and they were surrounding the building.
"I'm going to beat Han senseless when this is all over," Alex said through gritted teeth as he lowered himself into the tunnel and slid the trapdoor back into place, hiding any evidence that he had been there.
For the collective works of the author, go here.