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The thirteenth chapter of Book Two of
March 18, 2011
Leah, Sierra, and Keith set out from Mesaba Colony and finally arrive in New York. Shortly after arriving, Sierra meets someone she didn't expect.
"Are you sure there's nothing we can do to get you to stay?"
Leah stood near the bed in her cabin, packing what little she had in a small suitcase. Next to her was Sierra, doing the same. The voice came from the doorway to the bedroom, where Padma, head of Mesaba colony, stood looking over them.
"I'm sure. Aang and Joel said I needed to go as soon as possible." Leah responded, not taking her eyes off her packing.
"We've let the colony know you're coming, so they should be ready for you when you arrive." Padma said, a small look of defeat on her face.
"Where are we going to meet them?" Sierra asked, closing her suitcase.
"A helicopter is on its way from Tower. They will fly you to Minneapolis to board a commercial flight. You'll land at Newark International Airport, then another helicopter will take you to the World Trade Center."
"That's it?" Leah asked, closing her suitcase.
"If the BDA knows where the colony is, why haven't they been attacked yet?" Sierra asked.
"The colony's in such a big place that any attempt would cause an uproar. Xylia was susceptible because it was in a secluded place and no one would notice the attack."
"Doesn't that make Mesaba vulnerable too?" Sierra pointed out.
"We realize that, but we have a little better security and seclusion than Xylia did."
Suddenly, the sound of a chopper started piercing the air from the west.
"That'll be them." Padma said with a sigh.
Leah and Sierra picked up their suitcases and left the cabin, emerging in the center of the colony. Outside, a large multitude of colonists had arrived to see them off. Jacque and Keith came out of the crowd, walking towards them.
"Are you coming with us?" Leah asked Jacque.
"No, I need to stay here and wait for when Gabe and Ryan come back."
"Are they still in Xylia?" Sierra asked, setting her suitcase down.
"Yeah, but no BDA agents have come, so we're expecting them back soon." Jacque replied.
The sound of the helicopter grew closer as it zoomed into view on the forested horizon. Jacque walked over and hugged Leah warmly.
"Be safe dear, okay?" he whispered.
"You too. Thanks for everything." Leah said, letting go.
Jacque walked over to Keith and shook his hand firmly.
"If you need anything, you know where to find me, okay?"
"Yes, Jacque. Thanks for being there for me." Keith replied.
"Take care of these two. They did save your life after all." Jacque said with a smile.
"I will, don't worry about that." Keith answered, smiling back.
Padma walked over and hugged each of them, a small tear streaming down her face.
"You're always welcome here." she said, addressing the three youth.
"I know." Leah said, fighting back tears.
"Thank you so much for your hospitality." Sierra said.
"Anytime my dear."
"And Keith?" Jacque asked, turning to him again.
"Should you ever come back and we're not here, go back to Xylia and look for the map. It will lead you to the land of fire."
"Um, okay?" Keith said, wondering what he could possibly mean.
"You'll understand if you need it. Until then, safe travels to you all." Jacque said as the helicopter flew over, landing in an open area in the trees.
"You too!" Leah said over the roar of the helicopter.
And with that, the three picked up their belongings and walked over the colony. Once they boarded, the copter flew up and hovered over the colony. The three looked out at the waving people and waved back, screaming out goodbyes that couldn't be heard as the helicopter took off towards Minneapolis.
Leah, Sierra, and Keith sat side by side in the empty first class section of the passenger plane, holding onto the armrests as the plane took off. A tense second later, the plane smoothed out and the 'seatbelts' sign was turned off, signaling the arrival of the flight attendants.
"Are you okay?" Keith asked Sierra and Leah, who were visibly shaken by the plane's takeoff.
"Yeah, we've just had some bad experiences with planes in the last little while." Sierra said, breathing shallowly.
"Like what?" he asked curiously.
"Our first one was attacked and later destroyed. Our second one was shot down. And we had to jump out of our third one." Leah responded.
"Oh." Keith said.
"Yeah, it's been an exciting few months." Sierra said with a smile.
"I bet." Keith said, laughing.
"But there's no worry of that; we haven't seen the Elite since Xylia, and the New York Colony knows we're coming." Leah said.
"Doesn't it make you wonder where they are, if they haven't been following us?" Sierra asked as the flight attendant came by.
"What can I get you?" she said with what looked like a sincere smile.
"Water please." Keith said.
"Same." the two girls responded.
The flight attendant left through a curtain and the three waited until the sound of her footsteps died out.
"Not really. It's actually quite nice not having someone following me. But it does make me wonder where they are." Leah responded.
"Me too." Sierra said.
"The Elite were the ones who attacked Xylia right?" Keith asked.
"Right." Leah answered.
"And who are they?"
"The firebender is Kumara, the airbender is Vayu, the earthbender Adam, and the waterbender Jordan." Leah taught.
"An Avatar." Keith pointed out.
"Sort of. Certainly the skill of one."
"I see." Keith said, effectively stopping the conversation.
The flight attendant returned and they were given their drinks. As soon as she left, Keith bent the water out of his cup and started toying with it, making it fly around the cabin.
"Are you excited to see New York?" he asked while making the water freeze to the ceiling.
"Yes, it'll be so nice to finally get airbending out of the way." Leah said excitedly.
"And you Sierra?"
"Yes, it'll be nice to see the sights and all that." she said slyly.
"What about your dad?" Leah asked.
"What?" Sierra questioned, trying to fake surprise.
"We can see you're dad while we're there. He works at the World Trade Center, so he's probably only a couple floors away."
"Yeah, but I don't know."
"Why not?" Leah asked sincerely.
"Yeah, why not?" Keith joined in.
"I just don't know, can we leave it at that please?" Sierra pleaded, shooting Keith a dirty look.
"Fine. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you." Leah whispered, visibly hurt.
"No, Leah, it's not your fault. I'm just a little touchy about that." Sierra said, trying to cheer her up.
"I understand." Leah said, looking a little better.
"So what's left for you to learn Leah?" Keith questioned, trying to change the mood.
"I didn't get much of it at Uluru. I can fly in a sphere, create air blasts, bombs, and swipes, and my agility's pretty good. But Adrian said there's a lot I still need to learn."
"How long do you think it'll take?" Sierra asked.
"I don't know. As long as it needs to, I guess."
The conversation turned silent, and the three friends shifted their attention to other things.
"It was nice of them to buy out the whole cabin for us." Keith added, trying to end the silence.
"Yeah, it was." Sierra blankly said, staring out the window at the clouds.
Leah and Keith sat silently, reading separate magazines while Sierra gently rested her head against the window and slept. Keith closed his magazine, absently putting it back on a nearby table while turning to Leah.
"Has she always been this afraid?" Keith whispered, trying not to wake Sierra.
"Afraid of what?" Leah asked, putting her magazine away.
"Of her father? I talked to her about it once, and she seemed a little bit afraid then. But now it's to the point that she doesn't even want to talk about it."
"She's always been sensitive about it. When'd you talk to Sierra?"
"A few nights after we arrived at Mesaba." Keith said carefully, leaving out the detail of her intention of leaving.
"She told me she was afraid of seeing him because of the reaction she would have when she saw him."
"Really? She never told me that much; only that she didn't know how she'd feel."
"You see her reasoning on that, right?"
"Yes; I remember some nights while we were at the Rogues or at Mesaba she would take this hand cast she made with her dad before he left. She would just take that handprint and hold it to her chest while she cried herself to sleep."
Keith sat there for a moment, unsure of what to say.
"We'll be landing soon. Should we wake her?" Keith finally said.
"No, let her sleep. That might be the only peace she'll have today."
Leah, Keith, and Sierra stood beside each other under the overhang of the Port Authority's Airport office in New Jersey. It was raining gently, but the overhang protected them from the drizzle. Around and above them, cars zoomed by endlessly to and from opposite ends of the airport. Across the quadruple lane road was an enormous parking lot and the aircraft control tower, where they awaited the arrival of their escort.
Suddenly a small breeze picked up and the three looked instantly to the parking lot. There, a gentle looking Hawaiian man was standing with his back to them, moving his hand in a small, unnoticeable circle. The three youth picked up their bags and signaled an oncoming shuttle. Once in the parking lot, they walked up to the man, who turned around to face them.
"Leah, Sierra, and Keith, I presume?" he said in a heavy accent.
"Yes." they all responded.
"Excellent. My name is Keanu, and I'll be your escort to the World Trade Center. May I take your bags?" he said, gesturing to their small suitcases.
"Yes please." they answered in a grateful tone.
Keanu took their suitcases in both hands and gestured to a nearby blue car. They walked over to and entered, noting the smell of coconut. Keanu put their bags away and took the wheel as he drove them off to the road they had traveled. There, they parked the car as near to the takeoff pavement as they could and left the car.
They walked into the takeoff section next to the terminal and spotted a small helicopter parked in the shadow of the boarding area.
"You're a pilot?" Sierra asked incredulously.
"Sure am. You too?" Keanu started.
"Yeah, top of my class at Alice Springs School of the Air." Sierra boasted with a shy grin.
"Very impressive." Keanu said, nodding his head.
They boarded the helicopter, taking headsets to communicate with each other as Keanu started the engine.
"Newark International, this is WTC 1, am I clear?" he spoke into a radio.
"WTC 1, you are clear." a static-filled voice replied.
"Roger that." he responded, turning off the radio. "Hold on for the first few minutes, then it'll smooth out." he directed the three. They held onto the armrests as the helicopter started to rise. The ride was bumpy at first, but as Keanu promised, the ride steadied as they flew forward.
"Have any of you been to New York?" Keanu asked, looking back at them.
"No." they all responded.
"You're lucky. Most people are impressed enough seeing the city from the ground. You're one of the lucky few who get to see it from the air."
The kids instantly looked out the windows as the helicopter flew past a river and over a peninsula.
"Come up here, it has a better view." Keanu said.
They did so, squatting over Keanu's seat as he continued flying. A minute later, they saw for themselves what he truly meant. As they flew over the Hudson river, the peninsula of Manhattan came into view. Tower upon tower pierced the sky endlessly as the sounds of car horns and ferries sounded through the air. Keith was especially amazed, having known nothing but the serenity of Xylia. A light fog covered the city, obscuring the tops of the tallest scrapers.
On the end of the south peninsula, were two great white square towers. They stood plain as day, not particularly eye-catching or inspiring. They just stood there, beckoning to all the glory and majesty of New York City, their summit's obscured as well.
"Those two towers are the World Trade Center." Keanu said, pointing. "Welcome to the New York Colony."
The three held their mouths agape as they continued gazing at the city. Even betrothed by fog, the city's greatness overtook them all as it beckoned them to safety. Keanu directed the helicopter towards the twin towers, then ascended sharply into the fog. A few tense seconds passed as they continued skywards, then the summit of the buildings was revealed.
Leah and Sierra audibly gasped while Keith just stood there, looking on in silent admiration. A bank of fog encompassed the area of the two tower's summits, creating a box of open air that protected them from view. All around in the open, humans on gliders flew freely in the safe area of the summit. On the tops of the tower, dozens of people practiced airbending openly.
Keanu flew the helicopter forward toward one of the towers that had a large antenna attached to it. People cleared like ants as the helicopter hovered over the pad.
"Hold on, and get ready. Everyone's excited to meet you." Keanu called out.
The copter descended and touched down gently. Keanu stopped the rotors and the sound of the engine finally died out. He got out and opened the door for the kids. As soon as they stepped out, they were immediately met with numerous handshakes and claps on the back. People from the other tower jumped and flew over with airbending and joined the throng of people.
"Long live the Avatar!"
"How did you escape?"
"Show us your power Ms. Sanchez!"
Leah smiled politely and shook countless hands as they made their way through the mass of people. Sierra and Keith followed after, receiving attention as well, but not nearly on the same scale. Keanu continued pushing in front of them, trying to make some progress.
"Please good people! You will all have a chance to meet them! We must get them to their hotel!" Keanu screamed, but to no avail. Seeing his cause was lost, he swung in a circle and blew a mighty gust in all directions, silencing the crowd.
"Enough!" he screamed, his temper starting to flare through. The crowd hushed finally and returned to normal. Keanu directed the kids to a staircase leading down and into the building. They emerged in a maintenance area of the building, machines humming loudly as they worked their way through. Around a corner was a small elevator tucked into the wall.
"This is the express elevator." he said as he pushed the button for it. "We only use this for emergencies, and such, so never use it to come up. Use the locals, okay?"
"Okay." they answered.
The elevator arrived and they boarded. They waited for what seemed an eternity as the elevator descended through the titanic building.
"I had no idea there were so many of them." Sierra said in awe.
"We're the largest colony left, numbering around a thousand people." Keanu said.
"How do you keep them all secret?" Keith asked.
"We all work on the upper floors of the building. When we have foggy days, we enclose the top of the tower and take people up in shifts to fly and train. Otherwise, we just all stay connected through the phone lines of the building, then we go home all over the city."
"And you've never been attacked?" Sierra asked.
"Never. We've had a few people taken, but we've never been attacked."
"Where do you get the gliders?" Leah asked excitedly.
"We make them. In a few weeks, you'll make one of your own."
"Of course. There's nothing else on Earth like flying above the towers of New York, especially at night."
The elevator stopped and they arrived in an immense lobby with high windows. They walked through absently and out into the open street. Endless throngs of people ten time the scale on top of the tower walked in huge masses down the sidewalk. Keanu led them down the pavement a short way and in front of a great hotel, the name Marriot etched on the side.
"Alright, I have to head off." he said, reaching into his pocket and emerging with a few plastic cards and a roll of money. "Here're your room cards and money for food and such. Call this number," he said, giving them a card. "When you run out of money. Your room is on the south side, 2nd floor, room 21."
"Thanks Keanu, see you tomorrow?" Leah asked.
"Maybe. The leader of the colony will be here to see you soon. Get to your room, I'll send your things up later."
"Bye!" they all said as he disappeared into the mass of pedestrians.
Leah and Sierra sat on their beds of their hotel room. They had twin adjoining rooms, Leah and Sierra in one and Keith in another. Their rooms were expensively furnished with extravagant furniture and 24 hour room service, and Keith was currently calling up food for them.
"Amazing, isn't it?" Sierra gasped, breathing deeply lying down on the bed and staring at the ceiling.
"What?" Leah asked, turning over to face her.
"Just the scale of all this. We're so used to staying in cottages and barracks under lakes, now we're in a five star hotel! And all those benders! I've never seen so many or them in one place before! Not even at the Rogues!"
"It is amazing, isn't it?"
"What do you girls want?" Keith asked, hand over the speaker end of the phone.
"What do they have?" Sierra said.
"Anything, your choice." Keith said, smiling.
"Anything? Well, then mashed potatoes and cooked carrots for me please." Sierra said.
"I'll be good with a ham and cheese sandwich." Leah responded.
"Alright." he said. He turned around and quietly relayed their orders. A second later he put down the phone and sat down beside Leah. "It'll be up in a few minutes."
"That fast? Wow, this place is fancy." Leah said in awe.
"So do you like it here? Is it all you thought it would be?" Sierra asked.
"That and more. Airbending will be a cinch with all these masters. And I just can't wait to make my own glider and soar above the towers!" Leah said, gleaming with excitement.
"Sounds fun," Sierra said absently. "In the meantime, Keith, wanna go with me to the Empire State building tomorrow?"
"I'd love to, as long as we can make a stop at the Statue of Liberty."
"Why not just hit all the stops!" Sierra said, smiling. "We have money from them and my bank account, we can do anything here!"
"But then what will we have to do if we do it all at once?" Keith asked.
"Have you seen the scale of this city? There's plenty to do here!"
A knock sounded at the door and the three sat up in response.
"Must be the food; wow, they are fast."
Sierra stood up to get it and opened the door. She screamed in shock and stepped back a few steps at the man standing there. He was solidly built, with large brown sideburns and deep wrinkles around his eyes and chin. He was tall, almost filling the doorway, and carried a small briefcase in one hand.
"Sierra, what is it?" Leah asked.
She stood there for a moment, leaning against the wall and trying to relax.
For the collective works of the author, go here.