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Bolin runs after the lizard crow, his dark wings an inversed beacon of hope. "Wait for me!" he pants, his short six-year-old legs unable to keep up with the bird's flight. "Don't leave without me!" Cawing to him, the lizard crow stops at regular intervals, talons clutched about fence-posts, backs of benches, or street lamps, continuing only once the earthbender has caught up to him. Passers-by give Bolin curious stares: A young child half-sprinting, half-seemingly fleeing alone through the streets is bound to attract attention, but the grief and sorrow for his missing brother is hidden by a façade of happiness, a façade even he has accepted as reality, and his face reveals nothing of his true feelings.

He follows quickly as he can, dashing through the street and ignoring the Satomobiles that nearly run him over, their beeping horns piercing his ears. The wind blinds him, but the lizard crow's sounds keeps him going, on and on and on, until he trips over the curb of the sidewalk and falls onto the ground. Lightning bolts of pain flash up from his knees to his toes and up through his spine; his skull feels as though it has been splintered into a thousand pieces. For a moment Bolin floats in a sea of nothingness. In the next, he cries out, tears streaming down his cheeks from the agony, scarlet trickling from his knees and nose. Gingerly he touches his finger to the tip of his nose, the blood dribbling into his mouth and bringing with it the taste of iron, and he is rewarded with a blossom of pain.

"Mommy," he manages weakly, his voice unusually nasally, his mind not yet comprehending the words dropped into the air like heavy stones. "I think my nose is broken." The lizard crow lands half a metre away and glares at him with one beady eye, his caw that of contempt, though the earthbender can sense the smallest hint of concern underneath. He wipes his face with his sleeve, the hem coming away crimson. Shakily, he tries to stand, but the pain in his knees causes them to give way, and he collapses back to the sidewalk, the pebbles and dust lodging themselves into his wounds. Once more the lizard crow caws, fluffing his feathers with a feeling of finality. "Sorry, friend. I'll go in a second. Just give me a minute or two. And a bandage."

Footsteps. The bird squawks and flies a short distance away. Bolin turns his head and sees a dark-skinned boy standing in front of him, his hair split into two long warrior's wolf tails on either side of his head, framing his face. "Woah, are you okay?" the boy asks. "You look like you hurt yourself pretty badly."

"I'm okay. Just got a broken nose." The earthbender grins. "Are you okay?"

The boy glances at the lizard crow, which croaks at him. "You know where you are, right? You're deep in Triple T territory."

"Triple T?" Bolin blinks.

"Triple Threat Triad." Frowning, the boy looks right and left. "What are you doing here?"

For the first time he looks around and is somewhat flabbergasted to see the drabness of the streets, the cracked and broken pavement, the terrified-looking people scuttling down like so many elephants rats. "I don't know. I was following that lizard crow," he answers truthfully, pointing to the black bird. "I'm trying to find my brother. Do you think you could help me?" A cattish smile graces his lips.

His friend hesitates. "I don't have time for this." The boy gazes warily at the creature with wings spread protectively out, making it appear larger than it is. "I could take you to the triad. They might know."

"No way." Bolin crosses his arms. "Last time I went with a triad, they . . ." He wipes his cheeks again. "They hurt someone."

"What's going on?" The boy and Bolin both spin about, a teenager with light brown hair on the other side of the road staring at them. "Nakku, what did you do?"

The boy puts his hands on his hips. "Nothing. I found this kid looking for his lost brother."

"His lost brother?" The teenager crosses the street, flipping a rude hand gesture to a Satomobile that swerves past. His green eyes remind Bolin of his own, a curious kindness swirling within. "Hey, kid, what's your name?"

"B-bolin," he responds, tapping his forefingers against each other. "Why? Do you know where my brother is?"

Smiling, the teenager crouches next to him and pats his shoulder. "I think I do, Bolin. Is your brother's name Mako?"

Bolin's heart leaps into his throat. "Yes!" he yells, embracing his new friend tightly. "Where is he?"

"Nakku, take him. I think that Lightning Bolt Zolt wants to see him." The teenager walks a few metres away, then turns back as if a thought has occurred to him. "Nakku, make sure the rules are set. And heal him when you get there. We don't need damaged property." He pauses. "Nix that. This way he won't be able to escape."

The boy raises an eyebrow and grabs the earthbender's arm. "Are you going to take me to my brother?"

"I will. Can't you stand?" Scanning the bloodied legs, Nakku makes to pick him up. "Take him to Zolt, you said?"

"Do I stutter?" The green-eyed teenager leaves them there. "Oh, and Nakku?"

The boy growls. "What?"

"Do me a favour and knock him out."

Bolin yips and punches the air with his fist, bending the earth under Nakku's feet, knocking him over. Swiftly he tries to half-crawl, half-roll away, his knees shrieking with every movement. But a shoe connects with his ribs, and darkness swarms around him, accompanied by frantic, staccatoed caws.

"No damaged property," the teenager repeats. Bolin bends the rock around him, but the stone doesn't move, as if held down by an even more powerful bender.

A flutter of sable feathers takes Bolin into the night.

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