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The eighteenth chapter of Book Two of
June 12, 2011
Morgan and the Elite travel to the Middle East to complete the mission assigned after their failure at Xylia.
The three men stood side by side in the blistering desert, facing east while the Arabian sun set behind them. They peered into the fading horizon and spotted five figures standing alone in a group, dressed in black robes despite the heat. The men looked at each other, nodding faintly before diving into the scorching sand. The heat of the sun-baked sand barely seemed to faze them as they swam through the desert to the group.
A minute later they exploded out of the earth in front of the outsiders, spraying sand all over them. After brushing themselves off, the group stared at the men peculiarly. They were dressed in strips of worn, rough fabric that covered their chest, wrists, ankles, and all but the eyes of their faces. They stared at the outsiders with a glare that could melt steel, then turned to the south towards a long line of short mountains. They signaled the outsiders to follow.
They walked forward slowly as the sun set ever lower in the sky. They continued walking towards the mountains for a time until the sun was well below the horizon and darkness began to cover the sweating land. Suddenly the three men stopped and signaled for the group to stop as well. One of the men signaled for them to gather in close in a tight group. Once they did so, he thrust his hands down, sinking them through the sand.
They emerged in a dimly lit tunnel that continued on forever in front of them. The man who had dropped them in the tunnel closed the hole they had come through, plunging them into darkness. One of the outsiders, a woman, lifted her palm and lit a large fire above her hand, illuminating the area directly around the group.
Satisfied with the light they had, the escort men led them forward through the tunnel. The escorts walked with a fast pace, leaving the outsiders behind them and struggling to keep up. A few minutes later they stopped, and the escort men motioned for them to step back. They did so, and the escorts lifted their arms up and caved the ceiling in front of them in.
A pile of rocks collided down in front of them and left a small hole in the ceiling, wide enough for a large man to pass through. The escorts passed through one by one first, then lent a hand through the hole to help the outsiders through. Once they were all through the hole, the escorts closed it back up, leaving no trace of the collapse in the tunnel.
The outsiders threw back the hoods of their robes and looked around the space. They were in an immense cavern that had several tunnels leading off of it. The room was lit by several people dressed like the escorts, holding small flames in their hands and standing near the tunnels. The escorts motioned the outsiders to the tunnel directly in front of them.
They passed through the tunnel for a moment and emerged in a smaller cavern than the first. The escorts walked off to the side and stood guard at the entrance of the cavern. The outsiders walked forward to a man sitting at a simple wooden desk, looking over a blueprint of a large building. The man was dressed in simple white robes and moccasins. His face had dark brown eyes and a long grey beard.
The man looked up at the outsiders with a look of faint curiosity, then addressed a man standing next to his desk in a language the outsiders couldn't make out.
"My host welcomes you to our headquarters. We trust your escorts were efficient?" the translator said in a thick accent.
"Yes, they were excellent guides. I wish to assure your host that his English is sufficient for what we have come to discuss." one of the outsiders replied, stepping forward so as to set himself apart as the leader.
The translator relayed this to the bearded man and waited for a reply.
"Go on." the bearded man said in a thicker accent than the translator.
"Thank you. I must first thank you again for letting us come to deliberate on what superior has sent me for."
"You are with the bender hunting agency, yes?"
"And may I ask who you are?"
"Of course. My name is Morgan. This is Adam, Vayu, Jordan, and Kumara." Morgan said, gesturing to each of them. "We are part of a covert group known as the Elite."
"Yes, yes, I have heard of you. What is it you wish to discuss?" he asked impatiently.
"As you know, we are an American organization in league with the Central Intelligence Agency."
"Your, excuse me, radical organization has been on their hunting sights ever since the Trade Center bombing in 1993, and they've been keeping tabs on your operations."
"The point is, they know about your operation set for September. And we've been sent to stop it."
The bearded man sat there for a moment, staring intently at Morgan while thinking this through. The guards standing near the tunnel tensed and moved into an offensive position.
"You're not here to stop us, or you would have already made your move." the bearded man finally said.
"Yes, your grace." Morgan calmly replied.
"Then what are you here for?" he said, leaning back in his chair. At this, the guards relaxed and resumed their normal stances.
"Perhaps we can discuss a compromise that will suit both our goals."
"My superior wishes to have us come with your agents during the attack."
"On the planes?" he asked surprisingly.
"Just one plane. We want to be on one of the planes going to the World Trade Center."
"You are aware this is a suicide mission, yes?"
"We are aware."
"Then what is it you wish to accomplish? Surely your leader does not wish to have you killed?"
"Our superior wishes to eliminate the bender colony residing in the World Trade Center. Normally we would've done this ourselves, but one of our last attacks brought too much attention, and we've been under pressure by the CIA not to let it happen again. We can't attack the colony on our own without being shut down."
"You wish to be with us to carry out both our goals, then pin us with the blame to the attack?"
"Either way, you're going to be blamed for the attack. We will be listed as casualties of the attack, and there'll be no trace back to us."
"Why should I help you carry out your goals in secret when my people will be blamed for your actions?" the bearded man asked accusingly.
"If you refuse to cooperate, we've been authorized to shut down your operation before it begins. We've been tracking the agents you've sent into America. It would be a simple matter to have them arrested and tried for terrorism."
"Then we reveal to the CIA that you've been collaborating with us, and your agency will be shut down." the bearded man retaliated.
Morgan stood there for a moment, thinking of how to retaliate to the clever host. Vayu walked up to him and whispered in his ear, taking special attention to make several words audible to the bearded man.
"Perhaps another compromise?" Morgan suggested.
"We can blame the attack on the airbenders."
"Did I mishear you?"
"No my grace."
"How can you blame the attack on the people who live there?" he asked skeptically.
"No matter what we do, regardless of our participation in the attacks, whether we're let on the planes or not, you're going to be blamed for the attack. The government, the CIA, the American Public, the World, they're all going to point fingers at your organization. An action like this can't go unnoticed. There will be war and the call for your capture, of that I can assure you. Although the American public will believe it's you, we can tell the government that it was the airbenders behind it all.
They can forge the evidence pointing to you, tell everyone it was you, but they will believe it was the airbenders. It will all be a lie. The government can tell the military all the wrong places to look, all the caves and outposts not to check, all the targets not to attack. The public eye will believe you are being hunted while the government is actually looking for the benders they believe are responsible. You will be safe."
The bearded man talked this over with his translator for a moment, then turned again to Morgan.
"It is deal. I have one question however."
"Your covert group, specifically these four." he said, pointing to the Elite. "They are all different benders, yes?"
"Yes, they all bend a different element."
"If that is so, then one of them is waterbender?"
"Jordan, yes." Morgan said, signaling Jordan to step forward.
"I do not see what he has to bring to the mission. If you survive the crash and are able to fight, there will be no water in the towers for him to use."
"We understand that. While the four of us are carrying out the mission, Jordan will be in Louisiana tracking down another colony."
"So it will be you, the two other men, and the woman who wish to go?" the bearded man asked.
"Yes my grace."
"I hope you know that I cannot guarantee your survival, on the plane or in the Tower."
"We understand that."
"Very well." he sighed. "I will arrange for you to be on United Airlines Flight 175 to Los Angeles in three days. You will board the plane at Logan International Airport in Boston before the flight leaves at 8:15 a.m. My hijackers will know nothing about you, so you need to stay out of their way when they take the plane. Do not intervene, or I cannot promise your safety."
"All is understood. Thank you, my grace."
"Yes, yes. Now go." he said, waving them off while returning to studying the blueprints.
The five Elite, one leader and four members, sat on the beds and chairs of their hotel room in Boston, Massachusetts. Jordan stood near the window of the room looking out at the city lights cutting their way into the night sky. Kumara lay down on one bed while Adam and Vayu sat next to each other on the other. Morgan stood near the door, holding onto a corded phone with his shoulder while he tapped his foot on the ground. After the phone rang three times, the person on the other end finally picked up.
"Morgan?" the Leader's voice asked through the phone.
"Are you at the hotel?"
"How'd it go with bin Laden?"
"A little etchy at first, but we succeeded."
"Excellent!" the Leader yelled, his voice echoing through the phone and into the room. "What flight did he put you on?" he asked in a calmer tone.
"Do you know what Tower you'll hit?"
"Well, either way, you've succeeded. Well done! I can't wait to see it."
Morgan's face went pale.
"You're coming to New York?" At the sound of this question, Kumara's head shot up from the bed and stared at Morgan.
"Are you kidding? This will be our greatest victory since San Juan! I wouldn't miss it!"
"Are you just observing, or are you participating with us?" Morgan nervously asked.
"Not a concern now. I'll decide when I arrive."
"Fair enough. And what of the Xylian boy traveling with the Avatar?"
"Jacque has been cooperative. From all accounts, he has him fooled."
"And you're sure he'll be on the flight?"
"I'm positive. My agents tracked Levin's bank records and confirmed that he bought the boy a ticket on the right flight."
"Is something wrong, Morgan? You don't sound excited!"
"No, I am. Really." Morgan said unconvincingly.
The phone was silent.
"Sir, are you there?" Morgan asked quietly.
"Yes. Don't worry, this will go off without a hitch! Now get some sleep. We don't want you falling asleep on the plane, now do we?"
"Then goodnight Morgan."
Morgan put the phone down and stared at the group. The room was utterly silent as the members stared into nothing, unmoving.
"He's coming with us?" Kumara asked quietly.
"Not with us. Just watching."
"While we risk our lives on a mission where there's a very good chance we won't come out alive?"
Morgan ignored her. "He said to get some sleep."
The group ignored him in return, not moving from their somber places in the room. Morgan sighed in defeat and leaned against the wall, determined to wait out their sadness. Minutes turned into hours as the Elite still stayed, lost in their own thoughts on the next day that would be forever etched in their memory. Kumara looked up and sighed.
"It's not just going to be the airbenders. So many people are going to die tomorrow." Kumara said somberly.
"I know." Adam replied.
"Why do we have to be a part of it?"
"All in the line of duty Kumara." Vayu said.
"But why do we have to do this?"
"Because the Leader ordered us to." Jordan replied quietly.
"And why do we need to follow his orders?" she asked defiantly.
"Kumara," Morgan reprimanded.
"No Morgan, don't you get it! It's all a set-up! We're just his puppets! Did you not listen to him on the phone? Is he going to be on the plane with us, risking death through a violent suicide attack to get into the Tower? No! He'll be on the sidelines, idly watching by as thousands of people die because of us!"
"No, you listen! I've had enough! I've been forced to stand with him since I was six when he wiped out my colony. He killed my own brother and shunned it as if it were nothing! I've been trained, tortured, ordered around, and just plain harassed by him all my life! Don't I get the chance to back out of this if I want to?"
"You think you've had it rough Ku?" Vayu said, standing up from the bed. "You weren't kidnapped from your home and made to watch your friends die! With you, joining was your only choice. Me, I didn't have a choice. I was drafted!"
"You did have a choice! You could've died! You could've died rather than become the bitter, murderous man you are today! Then maybe we would all be better off! You and me wouldn't have fought at Xylia! We wouldn't have been called off from the mission, and we wouldn't be assigned to this ghastly one that's had us scheming with that monster of a man to kill innocent people!" Kumara screamed, standing up to face Vayu.
"Why are you so upset about killing people now? You seemed to be fine with it when you massacred everyone at Xylia!" Vayu retaliated.
"I never said I was proud of my actions! I never relished in the fact that I had to kill innocent people, only that they were my orders and I knew that if I didn't I would end up dead. Even if I had defied orders and run away, the colony still would've been destroyed."
"And by doing so you saved your own skin! Who are you to yell at me for my actions when you yourself have killed people to save yourself!" Vayu roared.
"Because I don't relish in death! I don't feel sick joy in my heart when I kill another innocent person!"
"Do you not? Being raised as the Leader's little prodigy, his masterpiece, his pet, he must've taught you that each death is a step forward to a perfect society, did he not?"
"That doesn't mean that I follow after that cruel man!"
"Then why do you follow his orders? You tell me that I should've died rather than allow myself to join, why haven't you done the same? Are you afraid of death?" Vayu taunted.
"Why don't we find out?" Kumara dared, preparing to send a fire blast towards him.
"ENOUGH!" Morgan screamed, large cracks appearing in the plaster of the walls and ceiling. Vayu and Kumara silenced immediately and sat down on their beds, staring at Morgan.
"We've all been through our trials and errors while serving the Leader. I've never been happy about killing people or controlling the bender community, but I've learned to accept it. So should you!"
"How could you accept killing innocent people!" Kumara screamed.
"Kumara, calm down." Morgan said.
"No! You've been just as upset about it as we are now! And you aren't willing to admit it, but you want out of this mission as much as we do. So why can't you give us that chance? Considering all we've done and all we've been through, we have every right to back out of this mission if we want."
"I...but..." Morgan stuttered. Accepting defeat, he sighed deeply and hung his head. "Fine. Vayu, what's your choice?"
"I'm going. Serves them right for not coming after me when I was taken." Vayu spat bitterly.
"If Vayu goes, so do I." Adam replied.
"Ku?" Morgan tried, but she didn't respond. "Without you, we won't survive the crash into the tower. We need you, Ku. But I'm not going to force you to come with us. It's your choice."
"Why can't we just convince the Leader to arrest the terrorists and shut all this down? The airbenders haven't done anything to us."
"It's his orders Ku."
"Then why can't you defy his orders? Why can't we just convince him to leave them alone and go with Jordan to find the Rogues; the ones who are the real threat to society?"
"The Leader is a stubborn man; once he has his mind set on something, he's not going to back down, no matter the cost. We can push him with all our might, but he won't budge a millimeter for us."
"Then why can't we fight back against him?"
"This isn't the time Ku." he sighed.
"If we don't talk about this now, then when will we? We're just going to end up in the same place as before; following that monster's orders!"
"Why can't we just quit? Why can't we run away from him, from all this?"
"Do you not understand Ku? The Leader will NEVER let us leave. Have you not been with us these past nine months as we've hunted Leah around the globe? He'll never give up on her, and if we leave he'll never give up on us." Morgan replied.
"Then we could fight back!"
"No, we can't! No one has ever beaten him!"
"No ONE, but the five of us together could do it!"
"Kumara, I want to, but it's not the time! This isn't the time to talk of rebellion and treachery. We need to be focused and rested so we can get through tomorrow alive. You need to make your decision now. Are you coming with us?" he asked, a final tone to his voice.
Kumara sat down on her bed and hung her head, looking down at the floor.
"If I don't come, what will you do?" Kumara whispered.
"I guess we'll die. We're all going through with this Ku: with or without you."
Kumara sat there for a moment on the bed and stared at Morgan with a pleading look, but to no avail. Accepting defeat, she hung her head and solemnly replied. "I'll go."
"Promise me we'll confront the Leader about this after tomorrow?"
"Promise me." she stubbornly said, her amber eyes burning though his.
"Fine. I promise."
Kumara sat next to the window on the plane, silently watching the skies roll by as the plane flew upwards to the heavens. Adam and Morgan sat in the same row as her while Vayu sat alone in front of them. As the plane reached cruising altitude and the seatbelts sign was turned off, five men stood up abruptly and rushed to the flight attendants. They screamed in pain as they crumpled to the floor while the men continued forward.
A moment later, screams and yells emitted from the cockpit, later accompanied by the sound of thuds Another second later, the cockpit door closed with one man inside as the other four hijackers arose the passengers, threatening them with knives. The passengers, including the Elite, were herded to the back of the plane to be guarded by two of the men.
The plane veered sharply to the left in a great curve before steadying out and beginning to descend. Passengers began to make frenzied calls to loved ones while others became sick from the erratic motions of the plane. Ten minutes later, the waters of the Atlantic ocean came into view as they continually descended.
"Are you afraid?" Adam asked Ku solemnly.
"A little. Why can't I save everyone here along with us?" she asked, staring out at the ocean through a window.
"I wish we could. It'll be over very quickly for them."
"And for us the memory of their death will live on forever in our regrets." Kumara whispered, as if realizing it herself.
"And in the hearts of America. Today they'll be knocked to their knees, but they'll pick themselves up and become stronger."
"They wouldn't have to if it weren't for us. We could've stopped this."
"No, not now. It's already begun. Osama may bring upon himself war, and destruction, and possibly death, but the one thing he will accomplish is that America will never be the same." Morgan said.
"And neither will we." Kumara replied.
"And neither will we." Morgan agreed sadly.
Kumara looked out the window again and spotted a thin line of smoke tracing out over the west and growing stronger as it moved inland towards Manhattan. Passengers started screaming while the plane descended and angled itself as it came into view on TV screens across the world.
One moment they were there.
The next they were gone.
- The author was apprehensive about posting this chapter due to its dark feel and the emotion it left him with when completed.
- Thanks to for helping in the production of this chapter
For the collective works of the author, go here.