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|Heaven and Hell|
Book 3: Doorways
April 16th, 2015
Korra battles Unalaq and Vaatu while John confronts Leon.
Southern Portal, Ten Minutes Earlier.
The wind whipped through Korra's hair and cooled her face considerably as she clung the wire of a biplane's wing. To her left, Asami piloted the craft, and beyond her rode Bolin in the opposite wing. Behind Asami, in a rear facing machine gun seat relatively new to the design of the plane sat Mako.
"So what exactly is the plan?" Bolin shouted over the wind.
"We get as close as we can and close the Portal. Whatever Unalaq and Alexander have planned, I doubt it will work if the Portal isn't open," Korra replied.
"And how exactly do you plan on getting past that fortress? The United Forces have barely cleared the Southern Port. That puts an army between the Portal and the four of us," Mako said.
"The Northern Army has no firearms, and we have bombs on this plane. We will succeed," Asami assured her fiancé as the beam of the Southern Portal came into view on the horizon. As they approached, a swirling mass of darkness began to rise upward from the Portal.
"Um, I don't want to alarm anyone, but does the plan take into account a horde of angry dark spirits?" Bolin asked, fear evident in his voice.
"We don't have enough ammunition to fight them all off," Asami said in horror.
"Asami, open the throttle on this thing and dive straight toward the Portal! We might not have enough to hold them off, but it should be enough to punch through!" Korra instructed. The young pilot glanced back and forth between her friend and the rising column of darkness. After a moment of hesitation, she reached forward and worked the action on the twin machine guns that rested atop the engine in the nose.
"If we're gonna go out, might as well as be with some style," she said to herself before she rolled the plane and dived toward their target. Immediately, the column of darkness warped and bent toward the oncoming plane, stretching outward to meet the craft head on. Asami squeezed the lever on the joystick that acted as the trigger, and in an instant the machine guns roared to life.
A high pitched screech filled the air from the spirits that were impacted, briefly drowning out the roar of the engine and the guns. The column warped outward, away from the diving biplane and forming a dark funnel around it. For an instant, it looked as though the wall of spirits would not part for the craft. Then, the line of darkness dispersed, reveling the golden pillar of light that was the portal.
A few of the spirits, sensing the airplane nearing success, broke off from the main horde and swarmed toward the craft. Korra shot bolts of fire at the incoming creatures, but it did little to stop them as they plunged into each of the plane's engines.
"Oh, they're in the engines!" Bolin cried, just before each engine coughed and exploded. The plane pitched violently at the sudden loss of power, causing Asami to strain in effort as she tried to keep the plane aloft.
"We're going in hard!" she shouted over the noise, aiming the noise of the plane toward the pillar of light. The craft sailed through the Portal before crash landing in a pool of water, sending Korra and Bolin flying.
As she came to, Korra took in the landscape around her. Unlike the landscape of the South Pole they had just been flying over, this place was brown, barren, and completely devoid of life. Jagged peaks surrounded them in all directions, just as barren as the plain they stood upon now. The only sign of life was a large withered tree that stood in the center of it all.
At the base of the tree, a small cluster of people stood gathered before a pair of men and a large glowing object. One of the men was chanting in a strange sounding language, shouting at the top of his lungs. She recognized the voice, it belonged to Alexander.
"Kill them!" It was Unalaq, pointing in their direction. Korra reacted in an instant, earthbending pillars of stone beneath herself and Bolin. Automatic gunfire tore up the area where they had just been as the group of men around Alexander and Unalaq opened fire on them. Korra and Bolin twisted themselves so that they landed behind the fuselage of the plane while Mako and Asami dove for cover as well.
"Now what?" Mako asked, raising his voice over the sound of bullets pinging off of the craft. Asami produced a small pocket revolver and fired blindly toward the gunmen.
"I hadn't planned on Unalaq and Alexander having this many people with them, much less this much firepower," Korra replied.
"Well whatever you come up with, you better make it quick. We're lucky the ordinance didn't go off when we crashed, but with these yahoos shooting so wild who knows what could happen," Asami said.
"Okay, here's the plan; Bolin and I will create cover while Mako and Asami provide cover fire. Keep them off of me long enough to close the Portal and then mission accomplished," Korra said. The others nodded in agreement and understanding to the plan. Asami stood and fired at the gunmen while Mako sent bolts of fire flying. Korra and Bolin bent large walls of stone and began sprinting towards the Portal, using the walls as a moving shield.
The two benders quickly created a semi circle around the base of the pillar of light before Korra entered the Avatar State and placed her palms on the Portal. Mako and Asami leapt behind the makeshift barricade as well. Both of the brothers began hurling their elements at the gunmen while Asami crouched and began to reload. Soon, the Portal began to shrink as it closed beneath the Avatar's touch.
"You are too late, Raava. It is beginning, you feel it, don't you?" The voice was ancient and dark, and above all else; powerful. As if to prove it right, the Portal suddenly exploded with power, sending Korra and the others flying with the resulting shock wave. On the far side of the tree, another pillar of light erupted upward like a geyser.
For a moment, two twin pillars of light stretched into the sky. Then, the pillars bent and smashed into each other over the tree, forming an arch of light. Lightning crackled as the now single beam turned a golden color. Above Alexander and Unalaq, a massive being emerged from the tree. It was kite shaped, red, black, and orange in color with strange markings covering its body. Tendrils flowed from its body as it twisted through the air, relishing that it was free.
"What is that?" Mako asked.
"Vaatu," Korra answered instinctively. She could feel it deep down in her base of her being. This was the counterpart of the Avatar Spirit, the darkness to match the light.
"What's a Vaatu?" Bolin shouted.
"Who cares? Take it down!" Mako replied before shooting a blast of fire toward the spirit. Asami fired her revolver and Bolin sent rocks flying, punching holes in the Spirit's form. Vaatu responded by glowing purple and firing a beam of energy. The beam stuck the barricade, blasting it apart and sending everyone taking cover behind it sprawling.
"Raava, after ten thousand years, Harmonic Convergence has returned once again. Nothing could stop this moment, and now ten thousand years of darkness will reign over all of creation," the spirit boomed as it looked down upon the shattered defenses. Korra pushed herself to her feet, determined to stand defiant against this new enemy.
"Not while I'm around it won't!" she shouted before her eyes glowed white with the Avatar State. The power of all the past Avatars rushed through her veins, making her feel more alive then ever. She took a breath, relishing the cold air as it filled her lungs before she unleashed a torrent of fire.
Near the Southern Port.
"What kind of buzzard wasp nest did we get ourselves into?" The Airship's Captain asked as he watched the aerial battle occur beyond the glass of the bridge. Biplanes from the Northern Water Tribe and the United Forces danced in a deadly acrobatic struggle.
"The kind that makes legends, Captain," John said as he finished with the straps on a backpack generator. The United Forces had adopted Equalist technology after the end of the Revolution as a non lethal alternative to defending against boarders. Upon his request, Asami had rigged up the collapsible baton he had taken from the sheriff's deputy in Kansas so that it was electrified like the sticks The Lieutenant had used.
"You ready, boss?" Roland asked as he tested the retractable blades on the wrists of his armor.
"As ready as I'll ever be. Bring the ship along side the enemy contact, close enough for a boarding party," John ordered.
"Yes sir." Roland spun the wheel on the emergency exit door before he kicked it open, exposing the bridge to frigid outside air. The Columbia was just sliding into view, roughly thirty yards beyond the door. Taking a bending stance, Roland flicked his fingers outward on both hands before he made a prying motion. The hull on the other airship reacted by bending inwards and peeling apart, exposing a large hole directly across from them.
Shooting cables outward, the metalbender swung himself and John across the gap. The moment John's feet landed on the deck of the other airship, he suddenly felt his body go stiff with electrocution. He screamed in pain as the current passed through his body, rendering his body immobile.
As the current left his body, John fell to one knee and struggled to retain conciseness. It was only then that he was vaguely aware of the metal baton being removed from his side. They had swung into a trap. Looking up, he saw the last person he had hopped to see move into his vision. An aged Leon was standing above him with a pair of electrified kali sticks. Even after everything he had seen and heard, part of him still found it hard to believe that he had betrayed him.
"Leon?" he asked, glancing sideways to see troopers restraining Roland. The airbender looked down at him with disdain.
"You think Collin understood your betrayal at the Tam River? My Brother is gone, he died on your watch. Can you bring him back? Can you?!"
"You know I can't bring back the dead! Leon, Collin died a hero."
"He died in agony and alone!"
"And how does that justify working with Alexander?! Leon you know what he's capable of! He's going to destroy the boundaries between the worlds, he's going to set the spirits loose on mankind!"
"Alexander promised me justice! That's all I care about, that's all I've ever cared about! And that's exactly what I got!" Leon roared before he thrust his hands outward, sending a blast of air into John's chest. The firebender felt the breath rush out of his lungs as he was launched backwards out of the hole.
Wind roared in his ears as he plummeted face first toward the earth. All around him, the Northern and United Forces biplanes danced in their deadly dogfight, forcing John to twist his body to avoid the oncoming tracer fire and aircraft. Falling toward Whaletail Island had done nothing to prepare him for this moment. His mind raced at a million miles an hour, struggling to find a way out of his current problem.
Somersaulting through the air so that he was falling like a skydiver, John unleashed the most powerful blast of fire he ever had in his entire life straight down from his palms. It was like a pair of rockets were in his hands, an effort to slow or even stop his descent. Much to his shock, and relief, he slammed into the wind of a United Forces biplane.
"Oh, that's going to hurt in an hour," he muttered to himself, feeling a rib or two in his chest crack and ignoring the surprised curses of the Pilot. With his legs dangling over the side of the wing and his right arm clinging to frame, he drew his pistol with his left and aimed it at the Pilot.
"Take this thing up toward those airships!" he shouted. The Pilot instantly fell silent and pulled up, following the orders given to him. Readjusting himself so that he was riding in the wing rather than dangling from it, John holstered his pistol and readied himself for the upcoming fight.
With his current injuries, he wasn't sure that he could fight Leon and win, or even survive for that matter. They had fought plenty of times during training when they were younger, so much so that they knew each other moves. But Leon had made it clear that this was going to be a fight to the death.
The Biplane leveled out thirty feet over the Columbia, allowing the firebender to drop from the wing and land in a crouch. Grabbing a cable, John took off at a run and leapt over the side. Sliding down the line, he found himself in front of a rounded window.
Two of Leon's men pushed Roland toward the window. As the metalbender whipped around to face his captors, Leon strode out of the shadows and shot him in the chest at point blank range with his Webley Mk VI. John blinked in shock and horror as blood splattered over the window. Roland stumbled backwards against the window before he slid downward out of sight.
The firebender could only watch as Leon strode forward and wiped the blood from the window before he smeared it over his face. He looked into the eyes of his former friend, and saw nothing of the man he had once called a brother. Instead he saw a man consumed by rampancy.
He saw only pure, feral madness.
"Kill him, and bring me his head," Leon ordered before he turned away. John felt his senses heighten as the two men aimed their assault rifles at him. Wrapping his left arm around the cable and drawing his pistol with his right, John swung his legs backward, causing him to swing backwards. As he began to swing back toward the window, he swung his legs forward and emptied the clip, shattering the window and killing the two gunmen.
Using the momentum he had built up, John launched himself through the window, holstered his gun, and extended his electrified baton. They were standing in what appeared to be the ship's cargo hold. Leon was waiting on him with his own batons at the ready.
"You killed Roland," John said, his teeth clenched in anger.
"Aye, that I did. Now what are you going to do about it?" With a yell, John charged forward while holding the baton out to the side. Leaping into the air, he sent a blast of fire toward Leon with his foot, forcing the airbender on the defensive. The two gunfighters moved through the forms of combat like a well oiled machine, their batons blocking and parrying like swords. Every time the metal staffs connected, sparks flew from the crossed arcs.
Leon brought his batons downward in a slashing x motion, intending to connect them on either side of John's neck. But John leapt backwards, dodging the swipe and countering with a strike toward Leon's exposed side with an added boost from his bending. Leon reversed his swing, bringing it back to meet John's staff while countering with his own bending.
The resulting explosion both blinded the firebender and sent him flying backwards. As the smoke cleared and his vision returned, John realized that Leon had vanished. Hauling himself to his feet, he switched his baton between his hands, and drew his father's revolver. The sound of him cocking the firearm echoed around hold, briefly drowning out the droning noise of the airship's engines.
"Is it blind rage or hatred that fuels you, my old friend?" he asked, looking around. The hold was filled with various stacks of wooden crates, at least twelve feet tall in some places. Along the ceiling ran a couple of fuel lines for the engines.
"You've escaped death one too many times, John. It's time someone put you in your grave," Leon replied without reviling himself. John smirked to himself. His ruse had worked in causing Leon to revel his location on top of a nearby stack of crates. Firing at a fuel line, the firebender watched as Leon screamed in shock and rage at being doused with the freezing fuel. The airbender had just enough time to see John raise his fingers and snap them in his direction.
Pushing off of the crates, he tumbled to the floor, narrowly avoiding the storm of fire that consumed the spot he had just been in. A few of the crates fell as well, shattering on the metal deck and spilling out their contents while the rest of them caught fire. Flames raced through the burst fuel line, heading throughout the rest of the ship. As he began to stand, the sound of a cocking revolver made him freeze.
"You take one step and I'll light you up like a roman candle. Now you got questions to answer," John said. Leon raised his hands to waist level, either as a sign of surrender or preparing to draw his pistol.
"What's the point of all this? Why the hell does Alexander need an airship?"
"Isn't it obvious? Safe transportation." John followed Leon's line of sight to one of the smashed crates. Brand new G36 and AK 47s were scattered across the deck, spilling out from the crate. Other crates contained various bits of twenty first century technology, things that should have turned to ash the moment it made the crossing between worlds.
"This ship has the ability to make a crossing? Well it's a good thing its on fire then," John said, watching as the flames began to spread. At that moment, Leon drew his revolver. But John reacted first, firing his own revolver and knocking Leon's gun out of his hand. Rushing forward, he tapped his baton against the airbender's arm, leg, and side, electrocuting him.
"Goodbye Leon," he said before he grabbed him and threw him through a nearby window, allowing the powerless airbender to free fall toward the earth.
Picking up the fallen Webley and ignoring the growing fire, John turned his attention to Roland's body, which was still slumped beneath the window he had broken through. He quickly holstered the revolver and the baton. Kneeling next to his body, John swallowed a lump in his throat. The two of them may not have gotten along at times, but he had stood by him when things got rough.
"Goodbye, my friend. We will see each other again," he said as he closed the metalbender's eyes. Turning away, John focused his attention on the growing fire and taking control of the airship. He ran through the halls and up a flight of stairs, trying to find the ship's bridge. All of the ship's crew had vanished, having jumped to safety due to the flames.
Bursting through the door to the bridge, John found himself starring at various amounts of technology that lined the control panels. His mind racing a mile a minute, he looked over each console, trying to find the one that held the ship's coordinates. Many of them were flashing warnings of fire or system failure, or both. Finally he found what he was looking for next to the wheel.
"Hang on, Korra. I'm coming," he said as he readied the Device. After punching a few keys, he plunged the metal device into the console. Instantly the machines hummed to life and the growing sound of electricity filled the air.
Beyond the ship's bow, a jagged glowing emerald green line appeared. It slowly spread apart as the ship neared, enveloping the hull as it went. The landscape beyond the crack changed, going from the polar landscape of the South Pole to the barren waste of the Spirit World. Rather than endless purple colored sky, a large arch of golden light filled his vision above a tree. Below, he could make out blasts of fire and water from a bending battle.
Reaching over his shoulder, he drew his sword.
"Time to end this."
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