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|Scared of Tomorrow|
October 25, 2015
The lights in the bedroom airship flickered on.
Kain was standing in the hallway dressed in her orange pyjamas with a rather edgy expression on her face and her hair looking even more tangled than usually, if that was possible.
"You screamed, your eminence?" she said sarcastically as Turkko, still utterly panicked, mutely stared at her.
"There...a face...killer!" he stuttered, pointing to the empty window glass.
"What killer? I don't see anything there." She threw a glance through the window, but there was nothing but a thick black forest outside.
"No, trust me!" Turkko restored his ability to speak. "There was a face out there. I looked through the window, and there was a woman with a white face and metal spikes all over it!"
"Please, there's no one but us out there. Next time you have a bad dream, call your father and please don't wake me up," Kain snapped at him and turned around to go back to bed.
Turkko narrowed his eyes as the room fell back into the dark.
"What's happening?" Tan's sleepy voice came from above him.
The earthbender was his last chance. Kain seemed to just think that he was being paranoid, but he was completely sure that he wasn't asleep, and he didn't dream that voice last night either.
"Tan, promise me that you won't think I'm crazy, but I think we're being followed. I just saw someone looking at me through the window," he started carefully.
"Hm...What face?" her bodiless voice in the dark spoke.
"I opened my eyes, and there was someone staring at me, some kind of a monstrous white woman. And that's not all. Last night, while you were all sleeping, I heard someone mention The Council for Security."
"I thought so," she said after a couple of seconds of silence.
"Really? You did?" He peeked over the edge of his bed to look at Tan.
"Mhm." She yawned. "You're too tense, and your mind is playing tricks on you. It happens."
Turkko couldn't hold back a disappointed sigh. "Never mind."
The next afternoon was foggy, and the sky was covered in a thick layer of grey, cotton-like clouds that threatened to give in and start raining any second.
Despite being dressed in a thick raincoat, Darin still felt chills as he passed by a rusty metal sign that marked the village of Xiao Xi.
"Guys, don't get me wrong, but this is completely futile. We've been searching these fifty square meters for two hours, and I don't know if you notice, but there's no country house here!" he pointed out.
"I agree. Let's move on," Kain added listlessly and wrapped a brown scarf tighter around her neck ad they went back to the airship.
They set out early in the morning to search over the places Turkko suggested, but both Livada and Xiao Xi turned out to be five houses inhabited by local people unwilling to cooperate. Long story short, there was no sign of Asami Sato.
"On the bright side, we still have Eastern Huangdi to search," Tan tried to cheer them up. "She could only possibly live there."
"Let's hope so," Darin grunted. "Why is Sato University named after her anyway? It's not like she was a professor or something?"
"No, Darin, she was an engineer. She financed the reconstruction of Republic City University in 179 AG. They renamed it in her honor," Kain said as they reached the clearing where they parked their airship.
Darin muttered something in response, and Tan turned around to see Turkko, who was still pouting over them not believing his woman on the window story, leaning down to pick something from the ground.
"Hey, Turkko, are you coming?" Tan called after him.
"You should come over and see this!" There was panic in his voice, and he waved some small object in his hand.
Tan frowned and joined him by a tall oak tree.
"Look." He stretched out his hand. He was holding a small black pendant shaped like a flying bat attached to a clip of some sort, adorned with a miniature red stone.
"What am I looking at?" She quirked an eyebrow at the boy.
"It's a zipper. From a Wolfbats jacket," he said, giving Tan the thing to get a better look at it.
"It's a Fire Nation clothing brand. My cousin Kimmi has one. I'd recognize it anywhere. Whoever was spying on us lost that," Turkko explained.
"Look, Turkko," Tan attempted to calm him down. "It doesn't mean anything, I mean, someone could have dropped it months ago, but let's show it to Darin and Kain and see if they think the same."
Turkko nodded and followed her into the airship, but he didn't like where this was going. Not at all.
The team arrived to Eastern Huangdi late in the afternoon, and it turned out to be just a little bit bigger place than they expected.
The village was mostly low bricked houses and a town hall, and not a sign of a promised country house.
The road that led to the central square was thin and old, and here and there grew a lone juniper bush, and the square itself was a small place surrounded with a couple of shops.
A fifty minutes long tour of the village proved to be pointless, as there were no houses that matched the given description.
Kain finally gave up and entered a small grocery store to ask for directions while Darin, Tan and Turkko were waiting outside earning astonished looks from the locals.
She returned with a wide smile on her face. "He said that Sato manor is on the western side of the village, just next to the butcher's house."
"Really?" Turkko raised an eyebrow. "If he called it a manor, it should be quite fancy, shouldn't it? We would have noticed it."
"I don't think so, I mean, look around. In this village a broom closet is probably considered a manor." Darin laughed at his own joke.
Turkko pouted. "Well, not really. There are a couple of stages of houses; hut, cottage, house, manor and palace. "
"Shall we?" Tan pointed a hand in a grey mitten down the road. In last couple of hours it got even more chilly, unusually cold for October.
They followed the path down to the end of the village, to the border of the forest. It was even emptier than down town, but there was no sign of a manor of any kind. Only a couple of houses only a bit bigger than those on the other side and what seemed to be a deserted theatre of some sort.
"So? Where is the manor? All I see is a medium to large house," Turkko commented on the scene.
"I don't think she lives here. It's a waste of time." Darin kicked a pebble, ready to leave, but Tan stopped him by tugging his sleeve.
"Wait for a second." She walked over to that empty theatre like house. It was probably blue once, but now it seemed to be a shade of deplorable grey. It was built in post-Hundred Year War style, and the windows were mostly broken.
Tan stepped on the front porch and focused on a wooden board hanging next to the door.
"I wouldn't go in, Tan. It doesn't seem safe," Kain warned her, but the earthbender frowned.
"Um, you may want to come over and see this," Tan called them over, and they quickly gathered around the house.
Kain narrowed her eyes and wiped the dust off the old wooden plank, and the silver letters carved into it were clearly visible now.
"The Sato Manor."
"What are we going to do now?" Darin asked in frustration. "She might be literally anywhere. She may even be dead by now."
Night was starting to fall upon the small town, and the sky was the color of honey streaked with red and grey clouds.
"I guess we'll have to give up on trying to find her and try something else. Does anyone know where Mako or Bolin live now?" Tan suggested.
"No idea," Darin shrugged.
"I think we should head for the Earth Republic. Visit Northern Air Temple, maybe. I heard it's the most spiritual place in this part of the world," Kain tried to be optimistic, but she was visibly disappointed.
"It would take us weeks to get there, but I really don't see any other options." Tan sighed. "Turkko, your opinion?"
But Turkko didn't reply. His eyes were fixed on the trees on the border of the forest. He signaled the others to keep quiet and pointed to one short pine tree.
"What? Your monsters again?" Darin muttered sarcastically but Turkko shook his head and pointed to the forest again.
"We're being watched," he said.
They indeed were being watched, but not by a Spirits Industries shoulder or a spy. Behind the said tree stood a small, slim girl in a green jacket that blended into the forest, and a sunflower braided into her long brown hair. She wasn't older than twelve.
Her eyes filled with fear when she realized that she was noticed, but she didn't flee. She kept standing there with her green eyes fixed directly on Turkko.
Kain stepped forward. "Who are you and why are you following us?"
The girl didn't answer, but she backed away a few steps deeper into the woods.
"I said, who are you, and why are you following us?" Kain repeated herself, but much to her surprise, Turkko pushed her away gently and waved his hand at the girl.
"Hi! Do you happen to know anything about Asami Sato's location?" he said as cheerfully as he could.
"Turkko, don't be ridiculous. How could she possibly know where Sato lives? She's like twelve." Darin grunted, pushing his glasses up his nose.
They all stared at each other's silently before the brown-haired girl slowly nodded.
"See," Turkko grinned at Kain. "Can you tell us?"
"Asami Sato doesn't live here anymore." Her voice was so quiet that it was almost a whisper. "I heard that you were searching for her, so I followed you. No one really knows where she is."
There was a noticeable fall of Turkko's shoulders.
"But," the girl muttered, "my sister works at the grocery store. Asami Sato orders food from the village sometimes, but she doesn't come here. My sister is the one who delivers it. She says that Miss Sato lives somewhere outside the village. There."
She pointed in the direction of pale green hills in the distance surrounded by wheat fields.
"Are you sure? Asami Sato who used to live here?" Darin cupped his chin, and the girl nodded.
"Thank you! Thank you very much!" Kain looked so happy that she could start crying.
The girl returned a small smile. "You're weird. There aren't many visitors here. Oh, and my sister says that Miss Sato doesn't like people much. She doesn't even let her enter the house. She has to leave groceries on the porch, and she doesn't take them until she leaves."
"Yes, we were expecting that. Thank you, again." Kain and Turkko waved off, and the girl disappeared in the direction of the village.
"Are we heading for the hills?" Tan asked as they were walking through the gloomy town back to the airship.
Kain shook her head. "No, let's wait until the morning."
"Isn't it weird that that girl who knows what we're looking for just appeared, like, ex machina? Isn't that suspicious?" Turkko narrowed his eyes.
"Actually, yes, it is a bit," Tan agreed reluctantly.
"Come on, guys, you heard her. She accidentally heard us talking about Sato. It's not like we don't stand out here," Darin tried to reason with the duo, but a shadow of doubt appeared on his face too.
"I guess we'll just have to see," Kain shrugged.
The next day Sun didn't seem to come out at all, as a woolly layer of storm clouds covered the grey sky and every now and then a lightning would hit the hills.
The airship landed on the middle of a field, and in that same second a sound of thunder broke the silence.
"Is this the place?" Darin asked. They were standing in front of a small, low wooden house with a wide terrace full of flower pots holding various plants.
"Spirits, how many loners do you think live around here." Tan rolled her eyes, but she also looked a bit insecure staring at the house.
Kain was just about to come closer and knock, when a rustling sound came from the house, and a woman ran out through the door.
She was relatively tall and thin, she was supposed to be in her late forties to early fifties, but she seemed notably older due to deep wrinkles on her face and streaks of grey in her black hair. She was barefooted and dressed in a beige shirt and white pants, and a jacket she obviously wrapped herself in in hurry. But the most important thing was a device she was clenching in her hand, probably a gun or an electro shocker.
"What do you want? Are you from the government, trying to chase me off my land again?" she growled at them, and Kain backed away.
"Woah, Miss, calm down." Darin smiled awkwardly. "We don't want to chase you off your land. We're just, um, we wanted to ask you a few questions about Avatar Korra and—"
"I've told them, I know nothing more that I already said. Now if you will excuse me, I have more important things to..." She narrowed her eyes and something flashed in them, something like recognition. "Darin? Darin Varrick?"
All three other faces turned to Darin, and he gave Asami a confused look. "...Yes? "
"Remarkable." She shook her head. "I haven't seen you in nineteen years, but you look...exactly, exactly like Varrick."
"Um...I don't mean to be rude, but how exactly do you know me?" Darin raised an eyebrow.
"I knew your father." Asami gave a small smile. "But that's still no excuse for trespassing. Who sent you?"
"If I may, Miss Sato, we work for The Council for Security." Kain joined into the conversation.
"The Council for Security," she repeated and shot a lopsided smile. "Well, perhaps you could join me inside for a second. We all have things to explain, don't we?"
Kain nodded and they followed Asami into the wooden house.
Asami led them into a small room in pastel colors and signaled them to sit down on a pale orange couch in front of a low wooden table.
The woman emerged from the hallway with a tray of jasmine tea and sat down in an armchair on the other side of the room and gave them a questioning look.
"So, they're trying to fight against her again, huh." She laughed dryly. "Tell me, who's running The Council? Jinora? Bolin?"
"Yes. My mother is a member of the council, but it's really only the world leaders." Kain took a sip of her tea.
"Your mother. I should have known." Asami smiled. "Really, most of us lost hope a long ago."
"Most of you? Could you maybe explain to us what we're missing?" Tan raised an eyebrow.
"First you talk, then I'll talk, all right?" Asami crossed her legs, looking evidently amused.
"All right." Kain cleared her throat. "The Council for Security is secretly fighting The Spirit for years already. Some time ago, Northern Water Tribe's chief and President Tayen came to an idea to send a team of people from every nation to find the Avatar to serve as a symbol of rebellion we could all stand behind and destroy The Spirit. We are that team."
"How sweet." Asami's smile was suddenly bitter. "They think that the Avatar can fix this."
"It's the only option we have left," Tan cut in. "We have to try."
"Fair enough," the woman said. "Now it's my turn to sell my soul. You could say that I used to be a member of your council, in a way."
"You were? How? The paper says that you disappeared after your company went down," Turkko said, pouring a good amount of sugar into his already overly sweetened tea.
"That's," Asami quirked an eyebrow, "because all the information on the Original Resistance was destroyed. The day my company bankrupted was the day I started fighting. You see, one day, they just knocked on my door and told me that Korra went missing. The entire police was searching for her, and I also hired a detective to find her, but no one did. They said she—she was dead."
She rose from her seat and took a small black and white photograph from the shelf and put it on the table.
"I committed myself to my work, but then The Spirit appeared. She destroyed my company and many others. It was before The Takeover. She started doing many horrible things: building an army, experiments, mutations, things you don't want to know about. All of us—Korra's former allies—we formed a resistance to prevent her takeover. See."
She pointed at the picture. There were about twenty people on it, mostly holding various weapons and all dressed in black leather jackets. In the middle of the first row, they recognized Asami herself, looking young and full of strength, standing between two black-haired men.
"Look, here. Jinora and Ikki. Our most precious spies." She pointed at two airbenders in the second row.
"Desna and Eska, Mako, Bolin, Varrick, they're all here. Lin Beifong. She was killed during The Takeover. Wu too. Half of the Beifongs. Meelo. We lost too many good people, but we couldn't stop her."
Kain looked down at two people on the picture. A strict woman in her sixties with a good amount of scars on her face, and a young man in a green jacket smiling cockily into the camera, an Earth Republic family of seven, her uncle she had never met, all those people gave their lives to stop the Spirits Industries from winning.
"We failed, and we were all punished, in a way. She couldn't do anything to those of us who were world leaders, naturally, but she ruined Varrick's company, killed Baatar Beifong's fiancée, and most of us others were thrown in prison. You know that year in a mental facility my file mentions? Guess who arranged that."
"Really? My mother, she was in prison? She never told me." Kain almost dropped her teacup.
"No, she wasn't, your grandfather spared her prison by making her the head of the Air Nation. But Ikki rotted in a Water Tribe prison for eight years before Desna and Eska managed to get her out. Don't lie to yourself—there's really only one leader out there, and she's sitting in that metal building on the Capitolium," the woman sighed. "Sorry, kids. I'd love to help, but there's nothing to do. At least she's been relatively quiet for the last ten years."
"My dad says she's been too quiet. He's sure that she's planning something big. Maybe even to win the poles over," Turkko said.
Asami smiled pitifully. "We fought and look where it brought us. We're dancing however she plays and hiding from PTSD in our fancy houses. The sooner you realize that there's nothing you can do, the sooner you'll accept that and learn to live with it."
"Thank you, Miss Sato, but I think we'll try anyway," she stood up. "Let's go back before the rain starts, okay?"
Asami escorted them to the door and after wishing them a half-sarcastic good luck, she locked herself back in and left the four outside under the grey sky.
"Well, well, well, who'd say that. Our folks accidentally forgot to mention that they tried to defeat her already and failed big time," Darin whistled trough his teeth as they walked back to where they left the airship.
"But this time it's going to be different. We're not, I don't know, taking weapons and shooting trough her window, we have a plan, and it's going to work," Kain cut him off.
"But what are we going to do when we find the Avatar, anyway? Knock on her door and say 'Hey, here's the Avatar, could you pretty please surrender and hand the Republic's back, please?"' Darin rolled his eyes.
Kain might have had a witty answer to that, but it was interrupted by a rather unpleasant surprise.
The team stopped rooted when four people emerged from behind their parked airship lazily. The reason of their reaction was probably that each of them had an unpleasant amount of weapons with them and a rather twisted grin.
Three women and a men, all in black from boots to jackets, circled them. Turkko's eyes widened when he recognized the one with her face painted white and black pigtails, pointing her gun right into his forehead.
"Greetings, greetings, it's so great to finally meet you face to face, really." The woman with long, wavy brown hair stepped forward. "Please, restrain from using bending or weaponry of any kind, please, if you cooperate there won't be any fighting today."
"Who the hell are you?" Tan snarled and the woman just laughed in response.
"Where are my manners, really. My name is Tarrlok, Tarrlok Sakira. Of course, I know your names, we've been watching you for quite a while. Luckily for us, this boy," she pointed a finger with a long black claw attached to her nail to Turkko, "was the only one who realized it, and you didn't even consider believing him, hah, classic."
Kain was staring daggers at her, but she ignored it and smiled unpleasantly, one eye fixed on Turkko and one on her nose quite comically. "Now that we're done with introductions, I ask you nicely to give us all the information on so called Project Anti-SI, The Council for Security, and the Original Resistance you have, including what Asami Sato just told you. Come on, don't make me use my claws, please."
Tan glanced at Kain. "It's four of us and four of them. We have a chance," she whispered.
Kain shook her head slightly. "Wait, I'm thinking."
"Come on." Tarrlok Sakira smirked. "I don't have a whole day."
"No way," Kain said, staring directly back into the assassin's mad looking eyes. "Torture me, kill me, whatever. I'm not saying a thing."
"Oh sweetie, I'm aware of that. I wasn't going to torture you, you're way to...resolute. But I wonder how much it would take for this boy to crack under pressure." She poked Turkko's shoulder, and his eyes filled with fear. "I can recognize a milksop when I see one. What an irony, we could have tortured your aunt for as much as we wanted, but she didn't say a word. Tell me, princess, does she still have those scars on her face?"
Turkko's scared expression turned into a horrified one. "Yes, but...you...she never..."
"Maybe you don't know your family as well as you thought you do, huh princess? So, what is it going to be, the painless way or Katherina's way?" She winked at the black haired woman who grinned threateningly.
Turkko pressed his lips into a thin line. "I'm...I'm not going to betray my friends."
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that. Now, please, hand us your pretty weapons and follow us inside, we wouldn't want to disturb dear Miss Sato, would we?" She shrugged and her comrades closed in around the four.
Darin, Turkko, and Tan were looking at Kain expectantly, but she just unfastened her staff from her back and threw it at Tarrlok's feet. Turkko frowned and took a small gun out of his pocket and put it on the floor. Darin followed his example with his electro shocker, and Tan shrugged, muttering that she carried no weapons.
"All right, lovely. And don't try anything stupid, cause Xaraya and Hawk will always have a gun pointed to your head. We should take you to The Spirit alive, but eh, she wouldn't mind if one of you dies, would she?" The woman smiled disturbingly calm and pointed her claw at the airship.
They made their way to the door slowly, when Kain's face suddenly brightened, and she stopped. "Hey, Mister...Hawk?" she addressed the tall and scrawny man with short spiky black hair who was holding a long curved sword. He barely had time to raise an eyebrow when she waved her hand into his face, sending a small airball at him, causing him to stumble backwards a few steps. He growled at her and swung the weapon above her head, but Tarrlok stopped him with her hand and laughed barkily.
"Dear Tui and La, girl, did you really think that would work? That you could knock the four of us down before you get a bullet into your forehead?" the assassin asked in obvious amusement.
Kain shrugged. "No."
"So why did you do that? You thought it would be funny?" the man called Hawk snapped at her.
"No. And guys," she turned her head to the team, "duck."
Kain barely had time to throw herself down to the ground, and pull Tan, Darin, and Turkko after her, when some kind of a neon blue lightning shot trough the air, hitting Hawk in the middle of the chest, and he fell down beside Kain, twitching. Xaraya and the black-haired woman barely had time to look at him before the same thing happened to them. Tarrlok bared her teeth and jumped aside, looking around herself when she spotted the source of the attacks. She pulled out her weapon, but she was already down.
Darin, Tan, Turkko, and Kain got up, the first three looking utterly confused while Kain had a wide smile on her face. "Thanks, Miss Sato."
Asami was standing few meters away from them, the same device she threatened to use on Kain when they knocked on her door attached to her hand.
"I've told you, I hate trespassers," she said simply, kicking Tarrlok's limp body lightly with the tip of her boot.
"Are they...like, dead?" Darin choked out quietly.
"No. Just paralyzed. And I think that one fainted. Weakling." The woman snorted. "Now, I'd beg you to get out of my back yard before you lure more agents here, huh?"
Kain nodded and turned to the other three. "I saw Miss Sato while those guys were busy threatening us. She signaled me to distract that guy. If it wasn't for her, we'd be on our way to Capitolium now."
Tarrlok's eyes opened, and Turkko took a step back, but she didn't move. She just let out a quiet whine.
"Don't worry, kid. They'll be immobile for at least another half an hour. I'll decide what to do with them once you're far, far away." Asami smirked.
"Asami...Sato." Tarrlok whispered, her mouth barely opening. "I have...a message for you. From...The Spirit. The Day...of the Northern Lights...is coming."
The smirk slowly disappeared from Asami's face and something like pure horror appeared on it. She kicked the assassin harder on the side and lowered down to her level. "When? How? Talk, or do you want another shock? I warn you, the second one leaves permanent damage on your neurosystem!" she hissed, but Tarrlok just grinned.
"It's coming...but you can't...do anything," she whispered.
Asami cursed under her breath and shot another blue lightning into the other woman's chest, and she screamed and didn't move again.
Kain, Turkko, Darin, and Tan seemed confused, while Asami was almost hysterical. She stored her weapon and grabbed Kain's shoulders. "North Pole. Now. And a phone, I need a phone, and we're heading for the North right away."
"Wait, wait, what do you mean? We're going to the Earth Republic to search for the Avatar." Tan raised an eyebrow, meeting Asami's panicked gaze.
"No. No, we're not. Do you know what the Day of the Northern Lights means?" Asami asked, leading them back to her house.
"No. We don't," Kain said, running to catch up with her.
"Good. Keep it that way. But believe me, you want to get to the North Pole right away, yes, phone Desna and Eska. I'll need to alert Mako and Bolin, and the rest of the Originals. Get Ikki in..." she mused for herself, practically knocking the door down and grabbing a black backpack from her closet.
"Now, we're going. If you want to save the world from The Spirit, you'll listen to me, all right?" her bright green eyes passed the team's faces.
"I thought you said you're done fighting," Turkko said quietly, his eyes still wide with panic.
"That was," Asami's face was deadly serious, "during the phase one. Now, the phase two begins."
The airship was gliding trough the night sky on maximum speed on the beginning of a week long trip, four people sitting around the small table, resting their heads on their hands, unsure what to do, while the older woman was piloting the airship in silence.
The plan had changed.
The phase two had begun.
The Day of the Northern Lights, whatever it was, was coming.
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