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Response
Chapter information
Series

Rising Tide

Chapter

4

Written by

Flipdarkfuture

Editor(s)

Flipdarkfuture

Release date

June 5, 2012

Chronology
Last chapter

Devastation

Next chapter

The Ferret, and The Decision.


Republic City's city hall gleamed like a jewel in the early morning sun, it's white walls throwing off dazzling arrays of light onto the buildings around it. A massive blue dome sat on top, glowing with a fiery radiance as the sun's rays bounced inside of the glass structure.

A crowd, highlighted by camera flashes and shouting voices, bustled at the gates, which were enforced by a long line of metal bending officers.

Past the massive intricately carved oak doors was a huge hall, resplendent with decadence and utterly and completely, gaudy beyond all reason.

A majority of the floor held rows of seats, most of which played host to reporters and journalists trying to pick up the early morning scoop. In front of them was a raised platform, on which a simply made microphone stand sat, indicating it wasn't native to the opulent palace. Behind it stood a slimy and calculating man, his blue eyes swarming with plans and deceit.

Tarrlok leant forwards over the stand, his hands held onto both sides for effect and for balance.

"Although the Hundred Year War has long passed, we are not living in a time of peace." An absolutely deafening roar of questioning voices answered him, and cameras flashed furiously, having no effect against his hardened eye.

He swept his arm out wide. "These revolutionaries who call themselves "Equalists" are not interested in equality at all. They just want to wage war against benders." The gathered reporters practically foamed at the mouth as they lapped up his words, their only focus being on the front line page their story would get to.

He allowed himself a tiny smirk. "Chief Bei Fong was supposed to protect Republic City, but she was powerless to stop Amon's attack on the arena. She has failed us all. If we are to survive these dire times, our law enforcement needs new leadership."

They were practically putty in his hands now, they took in every word, while he smiled graciously and allowed them to voice their inane questions. A woman wearing a professionally cut business suit got there first.

"Councillor, who do you recommend to replace the chief?"

He chuckled as if the question were a light-hearted joke. "I'm sure we can find a suitable replacement in the higher echelons of the police force, to live up to her reputation and quality."

Another reporter cut in, a brown haired, blue eyed Water Tribe girl, who looked like she was just barely hitting twenty.

"Councillor, is it true that you have been seeking Chief Bei Fong's position for some time?"

Behind his facade he ground his teeth, and scowled. He broke into a beaming smile instead. "Absolutely not, Ms....?"

"Serisa."

"Serisa. I have never intended and never will intend on taking the position of chief of police, I'm afraid I wouldn't have the stomach for it." He laughed lightly, playing one of his best tricks.

The girl smirked and narrowed her eyes. "I don't believe that for one second Councillor."

Tarrlok made a mental note to remember her name. He continued his laugh. "While I might be considered one of the candidates for the position, surely I'm at the bottom of the list."

The crowd of reporters chuckled as one, except for Serisa, who scowled.

He turned his wiles to the crowd at large. "But if you will have me, then let it be known that I will accept the burdens and responsibilities of her office should it fall down to me. I would be honoured to serve." He finished with a bow and an absolutely sickening smile on his face.

He no longer cared about that reporter, instead waving and bowing In time for camera flashes. A short and stocky aide walked to his side.

"Your car is ready, sir." He whispered.

Tarrlok clapped the man on the shoulder. And turned his attention back to the crowd. "Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for your time and curiosity, but I must leave now. Farewell, and may Republic City ever prosper!"

The chattering among them intensified and no-one noticed a single figure leave through the main doors, storming down the steps and out of the hall.

Tarrlok and his aide disappeared through a side door, leaving the crowd to stew. He walked down the glamorous hallway with a smile on his face, very pleased at how things were tipping ever closer to his favour. A man standing at attention saluted, and opened a door, which provided easy access to a hidden away entrance favoured by him. He loved using it to sneak up on the other councillors and it served him faithfully.

A fantastically detailed blue and white car awaited him; flowing trails of silver metal traced their way along its sides, melding into the front grill of the custom made vehicle, which gleamed like the full moon reflecting down on the ice near his childhood home. The hood ornament was again made of pure silver alloy, and was carved in the shape of a silver disc with lines swirling towards the center.

A man dressed in the black suit of a chauffeur inclined his head as Tarrlok and his aides approached.

"Councillor. Where to?"

"The estate, Tangris, I have some affairs to sort out."

"As you wish." He respectfully bowed once more before pulling his door open, getting into the seat in one graceful movement.

Tarrlok waited until his door closed until doing the same. Once he was settled on the opposite seat, keeping the middle one between him and his aide, a tall, gangly youth with amber colored eyes and jet black hair. He handed him a stack of papers.

"The affairs for today, Councillor."

"Thank you, Lao."

He flipped through the pages, finding statistics, reports, missives from representatives throughout the city, a very interesting name caught his eye, and he stopped for a moment.

Cabbage Corp business assets seized by order of Chief Bei Fong, CEO 'Mr Cabbage' apprehended and his accounts frozen. Requesting an audience with Councillor Tarrlok at 2:00PM this afternoon.

Signed, Hiroshi Sato, FutureTech Industries, Chief Executive Officer.

Tarrlok scratched his chin as he thought up plans and actions to this exciting turn of events, his blue eyes practically glowing. He could finally take Chief Bei Fong out of the game, allowing him free reign to take over as chief of police and increase his influence across the board.

He chuckled softly to himself.

Air Temple Island.

"Your bedside manner needs work."

He yelped as the bandages ripped across a patch of skin, rubbing it raw.

"Better?"

"I hate you."

"Stay still."

Tai was sitting cross legged on the floor of Korra's quarters, staring down at the floor in front of him while on a table nearby a radio blared the early morning lineup.

"It's time to say goodbye, Mari, I won't forget ya!" A sitar riff started up, before being joined by a bass drum and a saxophone, and a deep voice warbling about a girl named Mari.

"So -ow- changing topics here, when's training begin?"

Korra shrugged behind him. "I don't know, I'm going to meet Mako and Bolin later on, so I don't think it'll be then. Can't you ask him yourself?"

"I will be, I'm just using you as a medium."

"Ha ha. Just ask after breakfast."

"Fine. Aren't Mako and Bolin your teammates?" he asked.

"Well yeah, the three of us make up the fire-ferrets. I'm not sure what's going to happen to us though, with the arena as it is."

"It'll be up and running in a few months, Korra."

"I'm more concerned with them than the pro-bending, they live in one of the towers of the arena."

"Oh." Tai paused, not really sure what to say.

He just thought of something when Korra spoke up again. "You know what? I'm going to ask Tenzin if they can stay here on the island."

"Umm...are you sure about that?"

"Of course I am. I don't want them to be back on the street."

"No that's not what I meant, you do know who Tenzin is right? Really stubborn, traditional, and a stick the size of a tree trunk up his-"

"I get the point."

"Still.."

"I think I can convince him. Besides you'll hit it off just fine."

Tai muttered something under his breath. "Not me I'm concerned about."

"What was that?"

The last bandage fell off, and he made the mistake of turning around. She was giving him a suspicious look.

"Nothing!" he said quickly.

"I'll find out one way or another."

"Uh probably."

They both paused, adding stillness and silence to the room. Tai cleared his throat, and grabbed his grey shirt, tugging it over his head and letting it fall down over his body.

Korra packed the bandages away into a sealskin knapsack, and slid it under her bed.

Really it was quite awkward.

"Mari, oh Mari, I'll find ya someday- We interrupt this broadcast for a special news bulletin!"

Korra and Tai looked at each other with puzzled looks on them.

The voice on the radio changed to a smooth and light tone. Tai clenched his fists, while Korra crossed her arms.

"Although the Hundred Year War has long passed, we are not in a state of peace."

"What's he doing?"

"Quiet!"

"These revolutionaries who call themselves "Equalists" are not interested in equality at all. They just want to wage war against benders."

The sounds of a clapping crowd and the whumps of camera shots carried through the radio's speakers.

"Chief Bei Fong was supposed to protect Republic City, but she was powerless to stop Amon's attack on the arena. She has failed us all. If we are to survive in these dire times, our law enforcement needs new leadership."

Among the chorus of voices that answered him, a single one was discernable.

"Councillor, who do you recommend to replace the Chief?"

"I'm sure we can find a suitable replacement in the higher echelons of the police force to live up to her reputation and quality."

A blast of fire knocked the radio to the floor, leaving its finish slightly blackened and giving off smoke.

"That jerk wants to take over the police!"

"Sounds like he's going for a power grab."

"He's already got a personal task force that answers to him! This won't be good."

Tai heard the distant sound of Pema's voice.

"Come on, breakfast is up."

Tai grabbed his great coat, and walked over to his room, throwing it inside before waiting near the bridge for her.

She joined him, a sour look on her face.

"I suppose you heard Tarrlok's announcement?"

Everyone was seated at the table, with a bowl of pleasantly colored muesli and oats in front of them. Ikki and Meelo dug in with glee, with Jinora quietly taking a bite every known and then, focusing on the conversation taking place.

"Yeah, he's definitely looking for the chief's spot."

"I'll talk to him at the next council meeting, perhaps I'll be able to dissuade him, or at least find out what he's hiding."

"Be careful, Tenzin."

"Korra, shouldn't I be saying to you?"

"Maybe, but I'm not taking on a very well connected man in one of the highest positions in the city."

"...I'll be careful."

Tai chuckled. "I bet you've been waiting a while to say that, Korra."

She gave him a very wry look, before turning back to Tenzin. "Hey Tenzin, can I ask you a hypothetical question?"

Tenzin groaned quietly, stopping when Pema gave him a very evil stare. "Very well, what is it?"

"Say two people lived in attic on top of a stadium, and that stadium was somehow damaged and about to destroyed for a new building. What would you say if they had nowhere to go and there were few rooms available on a hypothetical island near the stadium?"

Tai winced at how shockingly bad she was doing.

"Your friends can't stay here."

"Oh why not!"

"Because they are undisciplined and will upset the balance of this Island."

"They don't have anywhere to go! And we have spare living quarters!"

"Korra-" he was stopped in his tracks by another glare from Pema.

She turned to the table. "To be honest, I think this decision should be made with a vote. All in favor of giving two strangers a place to stay?"

Tenzin crossed his arms and huffed. She rolled her eyes. "For a short while?" she added.

All three siblings shot their hands up immediately, and Korra absolutely beamed as she joined with hers. She glanced at Tai, putting him on the spot.

Reluctantly Tai began to put his hand up. Korra grabbed it and thrusted it high.

Tenzin sighed and rolled his eyes. "Alright fine. But only for a short while."

"Yes! Thanks Tenzin!" She ate her bowl in five seconds flat, she grabbed her cloth, wiping her mouth clean before getting up. "Can I tell them the good news?"

"Yes, you are excused." Tenzin said with a depressed tone.

She ran out of the room, just in time for Meelo to begin smashing his bowl against the table, trying to imitate her.

Tenzin pinched his nose in exasperation. "Meelo please stop doing that."

"RAAAAAH!"

Tai ate his muesli quietly, washing it down with a glass of water. Soon enough he finished the bowl, and stacked it on top of Korra's. He moved to take it to the kitchen when Pema spoke up.

"Don't worry about it Tai, Tenzin's on cleaning duty today. Why don't you wait outside for training?"

"Oh- alright."

He dropped the bowls back onto the table, and left the room, escaping a widening maelstrom of the chaos known as Meelo.

He had his arms crossed, and his expression was that of a bored one as he waited. He bent down to pick at a blade of grass, he balanced it on his pinky, watching how its interior was made visible when exposed to sunlight. He flicked it away, and sighed.

He really was bored.

He decided to focus on the sky, noting the intricate cloud patterns that hung directly over the island, he thought he saw a small shape gliding over him, and wondered if it was the lemur he met when draining the soup dish. He shrugged, and turned to watch the open door, rewarded with the sight of a blue arrow tattoo on a certain someone's bald head.

Tenzin stood in front of him. And was holding an Air Nomad robe. Looking about his size.

He threw it to Tai, and he put it over his head, the material bunched up over his shoulders, and Tai tugged at it. It cascaded over his shoulders, finally settling into position. He looked at Tenzin, and nodded.

"I'm ready."

"Just a moment."

He heard a peal of laughter, and glanced at the doorway. Meelo burst through, his arms like wings as he ran around Tai, making whooshing noises. Ikki ran after her brother, and stood nearby. Jinora walked out with her hands behind her back, as she unassumingly stood next to Tai.

"Are we all ready to begin?" Tenzin quietly asked.

Meelo stopped his motions, and moved to Ikki's side, picking his nose.

Tai bowed. "Ready, master."

"Alright, follow me, we're going to work on meditation first."

They all followed him as he took a path around the side of the house, running past a long and manicured hill. A part of it branched off to the right, heading up the hill and running towards a small gazebo like structure, its roof was painted a light blue and decorated with grey swirling symbols, and the supports were a bright uniform white, with no symbols or insignia carved into their surface.

Tenzin walked up the tiny flight of stairs to the inside of the pavilion, and sat down near the side that faced the calm expanse of the ocean. A series of orange circles were arranged in a line in front of him. He indicated them to his students.

"Take a seat, everyone."

As one they all sat, mimicking the cross legged position Tenzin was in. Tai settled in on the one closest to the stairs, next to Jinora.

"Now close your eyes, and think of the calmest place you know."

As one they all took a deep breath, and shut their eyes. Tenzin watched them for a bit, before doing the same.

"Picture it."

Tai had no small amount of difficulty trying to picture it, he knew that. After a few moments of soul searching and thought. He realized...he didn't have one. He suddenly felt very vulnerable, very self-conscious, and very afraid. He desperate tried to think of the closest substitute, picturing a small but densely forested Island, on it were a collection of buildings and paths.

Here.

Where he was right now, what he was sitting on right now, that was the closest to calm he had ever experienced in his recent memory.

"Now picture those who you know, who give you strength and support you. Picture them standing in this place."

Tai concentrated, and a proud girl with her brown hair in a pony tail appeared first, winking at him with a gigantic smirk on her face. Up next was a woman dressed in an orange and red robe, with her pale hands wrapped around her rounded belly, a warm motherly look in her eyes. Next up was a reedy man, standing straight and tall next to her, the voluminous crimson sleeves of his robes meeting in front of him to form an unbroken link. He had a stern, but knowing look in his gaze. Three children came next, each one dressed in an orange and yellow robe. One was bald, the youngest, and was laughing, with an unlimited amount of cheer and wonder behind his eyes. The second was taller, and she held an evil grin, laughing as well. The last, was quietly looking at him, expectant of what he could do.

Suddenly the landscape changed, transforming into a hellishly dark place, choking with black smog, and dominated by a torrential downpour of rain. A cluster of dirty and broken buildings cluttered the area, all overshadowed by a massive airship, decked in a theme of red and black, with a familiar symbol staring down at him. Underneath it a wall of fire and blackened wood crackled and flared, instead of the crackle of flames, a chorus of voices screamed and cried out in terror.

A single hooded figure appeared in front of him, hands clasped behind his back as he walked towards him, a grim white mask boring into him.

"Boy..." the visage growled-

Tai opened his eyes with a gasp, finding beads of sweat rolling into his eyes. He blinked twice, confused and terrified. He shivered.

"Tai!" Tenzin reached towards him with a concerned look.

Jinora and Ikki craned their heads as they watched him with worry. He found his chest was heaving, and he suddenly got up. "I-I need to go."

"Tai - wait. What did you see?"

He clenched his hands tightly, turning his knuckles white with the tension. "Him! I saw him! They were burning and I-" he stopped, trying to get a hold of himself, as he saw the horrified faces of the kids.

"Calm down!"

A dangerously animal like look came into his eyes. "I need to find him!" he growled.

"That can wait.."

"NO IT CAN'T!" He shouted.

The pavilion was silent, and Tai looked around him, realizing he was standing up with his hands balled into fists. He was breathing heavily.

He didn't look at any of them as he stormed out of there, leaving behind the very confused and upset group.

Tenzin pinched his nose in frustration and helplessness, his daughters went to comfort him, wrapping him in an embrace, while Meelo just turned around to watch Tai walk across the cliff edge towards an empty bluff.

What the hell is wrong with me?

Tai had his arms crossed, and a stormy look in his eyes as he silently watched the waves crash against the rocks below, throwing clumps of churning white foam on them. Once the waves receded small movements were seen in the cracks of the cliff as a colony of Lemurs began to stir and chatter.

A long drawn out breath escaped him as he shook his head. He wiped his palm over his face, sighing as he tried to get his thoughts in check.

Why did I do that?

He couldn't face them now, possibly never, not after that. They probably would be scared to death of him, and they'd have the right idea to-

"May I sit down?"

He whipped around, averting his eyes as Tenzin sat down next to him, settling into a cross legged position.

He stayed silent, not trusting his mouth to say anything good.

"You know, my father sat out here, to think, and to work things out between himself. I honestly couldn't see why he did so, which is why I choose to mediate in that shelter."

Trying his luck, he spoke quietly. "Your father? Avatar Aang?"

Tenzin inclined his head. "The very same."

"Did he have the same...issues?"

"Not exactly, but he did face a similar problem a long time ago."

"Someone like hi- Amon - was threatening the city?"

"Yes. I was only ten years old at the time." he chuckled. "That was around the time I had just met Lin."

"Huh. You both are practically opposites."

"We knew that, and I don't think we cared one bit."

Tai fidgeted, and looked away from Tenzin. "What's going to happen to me?"

He glanced at his master, and immediately regretted. An absolutely diabolical look was there. "Tomorrow, I'll test you in some sparring matches. From what I've seen, you really need to brush up on the basics."

"Yeah..."

"Korra can join in as well, I'm sure it'll work out in your favor." Tenzin didn't know that Tai saw him wince.

"I think I can take her on," he said with a bit of fire in his voice.

"Good."

"Honey!"

They both looked back, seeing Pema standing behind them. "Korra needs to talk with you, says its urgent."

Tenzin nodded, and before leaving him, placed a hand on Tai's shoulder. "Keep it under control?"

The boy nodded, slightly unsure. "I will."

"I think we'll end the lessons for today. Do whatever you want, and I'll see you at dinner."

He nodded, and turned back to watching the ocean, his thoughts now at ease.

Huh. He's been gone a while now. Tai ran a towel through his hair, trying to get it back into his meticulously unkempt look. He nudged the door open with his feet, and stepped out onto the smooth stone pathway. As his undertook a metamorphosis inside the warm cocoon the towel made, he looked up at the moon, noticing how especially full it was tonight. It glimmered beautifully, giving everything it saw a portion of its light. Studding the sky alongside the moon, stars twinkled brilliantly, trying their best to shine before the advancing cloud formation blowing from the west, their dark nebulous profiles barely discernible against the dark sky.

He had a lazy smile on his face, very content with how the day proceeded.

He really wasn't sure what to do with himself for a while, aimlessly wandering around the Island at first. He found himself near the Air Acolytes quarters, and decided to give them a hand in their daily jobs and labor. After bidding them goodbye, he still wasn't satisfied, and decided to explore the western edge of the Island. That was going to be difficult though, seeing as a fifty-meter gap separated it from the island proper. Still it wasn't something he hadn't faced before, and decided to make that his goal for the day. It kept him focused, stopping him from going back to the darker parts of his thoughts.

Finally, as the sun began to duck back towards the horizon, he got across. He set to exploring, disturbing colonies of Lemurs, rousing curious looks from a heard of sky-bison, and generally finding something to with his time. Soon enough he found what he found what he was looking for.

After being bested several times in a row by a particularly stubborn broad leaf as wide as his whole body. He stumbled into a clearing, bisected in two by a running stream of crystal clear water. In the center of the grove was a simple rock, twice as high as he was. He didn't know why but it radiated a sense of calm and security. He decided to leave though, promising to come back here at a latter point in time.

He stopped ruffling his hair, and it immediately poofed out. He blew a thick strand of hair out his mouth, a very unimpressed look on him. Looking down at times to check the towel around his waist was still hanging one, he crossed the bridge to his and Korra's rooms. He saw her door move.

Huh. She was back.

He shrugged to himself, walking over to his door, reaching to pull it back. He heard a slight thump within, and he paused. Slowly and cautiously, he gripped the edge of the door, and very purposefully, began to slide it across, trying not to alert whatever made the sound.

It opened up, so far revealing only what was there normally, nothing at all and a sock or two. His sword, currently sitting in its sheath, was propped up against the opposite wall, between a shelf and a line of cabinets. Maybe it was a false alarm...

"Hello."

Now he was very confused.

He opened it fully, revealing the addition of two extra beds, with two more occupants.

The guy in front of him was looking straight him, an eyebrow raised, and a question in his bright green eyes. On his head was a curled up length of red fur.

The other occupant of the room, crossed his arms, and mouthed something silently.

He was about to take a breath to speak when he stopped himself. Stepping through the threshold, he walked past the two of them, holding up a single finger as he did so. He stood by his bed, and closed the curtains.

Dropping the towel around his ankles, he grabbed his pants, slipping them on with practiced ease. He pulled his gray shirt over his head, which managed to pat down his hair into its natural messiness.

He sat down on his bed, and opened the curtains.

"Uh...I'm Tai."

The coil of red fur jumped off of the guy with the green eye's head, and moved across the floor towards him. It stood up, raising itself as high as his knee. He watched it as it cocked its head and squeaked, before he could blink it wrapped itself around his foot and purred contentedly.

Mako opened his mouth to answer when his brother cut in. "I'm Bolin, awesome bending master and pro-bending champ."

"I'm sorry, I haven't seen any of your games."

Bolin sagged. "Oh." he pointed at Mako. "That's Mako, my brother."

"Nice scarf."

"It stays on me." Mako answered a bit pointedly.

"Sure, fine. Did I miss something?"

Mako chuckled. "I think I did too, even if I was there."

Bolin took this as a chance to cut in. "Equalists."

"Ah. Is Korra okay?"

"Yeah she's fine. How do you know her?" Bolin crossed his arms, casting a suspicious look at him.

"We met on a moonlit night in the cosy rooms of the police headquarters."

"What'd you do?" Mako asked.

"I had a meeting with someone." Tai said noncommittally.

The other boy nodded, his eyes narrowed. He spied the sword propped against the wall. "Was that there too?"

"It was bring your own."

They bored into each other's eyes, trying to gauge what the other was thinking. Bolin watched them cautiously. He suddenly yawned. "Uh. Whelp, I'm off. Night," he said quickly, before dropping onto the bed and snoring.

Mako spoke up first. "Stay away from her." He laid back down, closing his eyes immediately.

Tai scowled and did the same.

Great.

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