|More from AvatarAang7||Drama||M||Please do||Irregular|
January 3rd, 2017
Korra knew that she was fairly safe now. They had reached Omashu without too many problems, in spite of the light damage done to the ship. Priority now was to get her back to full strength and mostly to prepare for a fight.
That was a week ago. She had made alliances with various ships, got a few feelers out there looking to see if any of them could get a read on where the Equalist made port. They had definitely sustained more damage, but it wouldn't cripple the ship beyond repair, especially when they were being backed - and presumably funded - by Hiroshi Sato.
The captain could also tell it was having an effect on Asami. After all, she was the one it was for, and she knew that they probably couldn't outwit Amon a second time.
All in all, Korra would have been quite content to stay in the port of Omashu, but the men were getting restless. The ship had been repaired, supplies had been stocked, there was plenty of gunpowder and shot on board, Korra had even hired some more crew. Instead of 35, there were now 45 men on her ship, which was quite a lot on such a small brig. This only made them more eager to get out there and capture a few ships, so Korra wasn't really left with much of a choice.
"What are our options?" she asked no one in particular.
Mako was the first one to speak up. "Well, I think our best chance is to go south. Amon wouldn't be stupid enough to follow us here, he needs a port to make proper repairs. With a ship as crippled as his, he wouldn't stand a chance against us."
-"There was a big slave auction yesterday in Senlin," Hakoda offered up. "There are bound to be some ships we can catch."
-"Slaves we can free, and there's bound to be some cargo as well," Bolin agreed. "It's worth a shot, captain."
"Aye," Korra said. "Set course, but keep your eyes peeled and your ears open. First whiff someone gets of the Equalist, I want to know about."
And so it went. It felt good to take the fully-repaired Aurora back out to sea, and with a bit more crew, it was easier to sail her than ever. Also, because sailing was hard work, the men were less likely to be rowdy because they were too tired to argue. Bolin and Hakoda had their hands full making sure that they kept the crew in line, because there were a few rivalries forming, but it was nothing that a drink of rum couldn't fix.
But Korra did have a serious problem. With more men on board, it also meant that she had to keep a closer eye on Asami and make sure nothing happened there. The men all just came from the shore, so with them having spent plenty of time in brothels, they weren't aching for some just yet, but the captain knew that would change at some point.
They had deliberately sailed away from the coast, this meant they could try and intercept the slave ships head on, giving them an advantage. The Aurora was by no means slow, but that was an edge they had over any potential prize, and therefore, an opportunity.
Sure enough, after about 5 days at sea, the lookout spotted something. "SAIL! Southwest of us!" Korra and Mako both made for the railing, looking through their spyglasses.
-"What do you think, Captain?"
"Hard to say at this distance. Raise Earth Kingdom colors. At least make it appear like we're traders."
-"Aye, Captain." He quickly repeated her orders, and they were carried out out of sight.
Asami came up onto the quarterdeck as well, seeing how breakfast was just done. "You're looking for slavers, aren't you?"
Korra stoically kept looking through her spyglass. "I'm looking for a good prize."
-"Don't bullshit me, Captain. You're a good liar, but you're not that good. We've been heading for Senlin since we left Omashu, and do you really think I don't know that's the slave-trading capital of the Earth Kingdom?"
This time, Korra actually put her spyglass down and stared Asami straight in the eyes. "Sato, you are in no position to judge me. How many times have slaves done your hair, cooked your food, helped you get dressed? They made the sugar you put in your tea and picked the grapes of the wine you drank. You may be against slavery, but you certainly profited from it more than you care to admit. If there is even a single slave on that ship for me to free, I will have done more for them than you have in your entire life. You know why I'm doing this, you know where I came from."
Asami hesitated for a moment. "You're making it sound like I did it all myself."
"Not to worry, you're not as evil as your father - yet."
This time, she actually went on the defensive. "My father is a decent man, far more so than you ever will be. You kill people like they mean nothing."
Korra didn't really know how to react to this. Was she really that naive? "Sato, let me tell you something: your father kills more people in a week than I have in my life. Just because he does it with a pen and I do it with a sword doesn't make him any better. At least I have the courage to look a man in the eye before I stab him in the heart, whereas your father just passes the order down the chain. Your family logo is branded on my chest and the scars of his chains are on my ankles, so I'm pretty certain I know what I'm talking about."
Asami stayed silent, mostly because she knew Korra wasn't making it up. Slaves died all the time, be it from being overworked in the fields or because of just miserable conditions on the ships.
"Now get out of my way, Sato. I have a ship to catch."
Catching up to the slow and sluggish slaver was easy, but there was a choice to make, namely when to raise the black pirate flag and make their true intentions known. Too soon, and they'd have to chase her. Too late, and the crew of the slaver would panic and fight.
They were close enough to read the name on the stern of the ship: the Rhino. When they were about to sail alongside her, Korra gave the order. "Raise the black," she told Mako.
-"Raise the black!"
The flag with the crossed cutlasses behind the skull wearing a blue bandana went up, and Korra felt her anxiety rise. She was watching the stern of the slaver, waiting to see what would happen. After a few tense moments, she smiled as they raised a white flag. "Prepare to board."
Securing the crew was easy, as they didn't put up any resistance, so the captain could quickly cross the gangplank as well. Korra smiled as she saw the confusion on the captain of the Rhino. "Not expecting a woman, huh?"
He raised an eyebrow. "You're the one in command?"
"Captain, before you start making remarks about that, think of your crew. Have you heard what happened to the Fire Lord Sozin?"
-"It disappeared. Only one crewmember survived, and even she's still missing."
The pirate captain's smile grew a little. "Who do you think made it disappear?" The fear in his eyes grew as he looked from Korra to the Aurora and back to Korra. "Captain, I promise you, you and your crew won't be harmed as long as you answer my questions truthfully and don't try anything incredibly stupid. We are here for your goods, not your lives. Do we have an agreement?"
Probably more out of fear than anything else, he nodded.
"Good. First question: what does your cargo consist of?" He hesitated, so Korra leaned in a little closer. "It'll take me a grand total of five minutes to work it out from your log, so you might as well cut out the middle man, so to speak."
-"Slaves, mostly," he gave in. "We have our orders, it wasn't my idea. There is some additional cargo."
Korra gently nodded. "Bolin, bring Asami over."
The bosun shot his brother a quizzical look but did comply. "Captain, which one of you has the keys to the slave hold?"
Asami didn't know why Bolin was suddenly bringing her over from the Aurora. She wasn't a fighter, and even if she was, the other ship surrendered without any fight. There was absolutely no reason for her to go over there.
Korra and Mako were waiting for her, along with a handful of pirates. "Follow me," the captain coldly said and went below decks.
They made their way to an unassuming door where they all stopped. The captain gave her first mate a simple nod, and he opened the door. Asami was nearly knocked of her feet by the stench of urine and excrement that wafted out, far worse than anything she had smelled before. And the crew quarters of the Aurora didn't exactly smell of roses either.
Korra and Mako seemed mostly unfazed by this. They gave their eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness and stepped in. The heiress sighed, knowing she was supposed to follow them, even if ever fiber of her being was telling her to not to enter. But in the end, there probably was no getting around it. She took one last deep breath of what could pass for fresh air and followed her captain.
It was even worse than she could imagine. Not just the smell, even though that was horrible, but mostly the sight that greeted her.
Stretched out before her were slaves. Dozens of them. All of them were chained up, both by their wrists and ankles, making sure they only had a minimum of moving space. This also meant they had to sit in their own filth, which explained the smell. And when her eyes adjusted to the darkness a little more, she could see that they were all naked, and all of them were branded with the same mark Korra bore on her chest.
They looked up at Korra, and Asami swore there was a glimmer of hope in all of their eyes. "Still believe your father is a decent man?" the captain asked.
Asami shook her head and walked on, not knowing what she was about to encounter.
Sitting among the others was a man with a woman pulled close to him, but the woman was sitting very still. She hadn't looked up at the people coming in, which was strange. But then, as the heiress looked closer, the pieces started to fall into place. She wasn't breathing, and after what felt like a long time, the man looked up with tears in his eyes. The woman was dead.
At this point, Asami felt sick. Violently so. She'd seen violence, but she had no idea that people were capable of something like this, capable of treating other human beings like they were less than cattle. She bolted out of the slave hold and back to the deck, making it just in time to the railing where she threw up into the sea. Korra was right. Her father was not the man she thought he was.
Korra saw how the heiress sprinted out of the hold, back up to the deck. She already suspected that Asami might be sick from what she'd see down here, so she made no effort to stop her. "Cut them loose," she told Mako and then went up to the deck again as well.
She found Asami leaning against the railing, exhausted from puking her guts out. "You were right," the heiress mumbled. "You were right all along."
The captain nodded. "I know, but now you know it too. If you want to help them, go back to the Aurora and help Bato prepare a decent meal for those poor souls. They're not slaves any longer." She held out her hand and pulled Asami back on her feet. "You're not like your father. You care."
Asami nodded. "Thanks." With that, she went back to the pirate ship and caught just a glimpse of the slaves pouring out into the sunken part of the lower deck, the crew of the slaver having been corralled on the forecastle to make room for them all.
Korra decided now was a good time to prepare her address. She waited until Mako and her men who freed the slaves came back onto the deck as well and nodded that they were all accounted for. "Everyone, listen up! From this moment on, you are no longer slaves." A loud cheer went up from the crowd, but Korra managed to silence them again by raising her hands. "There is one issue: we are far away from everything. This means that you'll have to sail this ship back to the port of Omashu, where you will be free to choose your own fate. Me and my men will take our share of the cargo, but you are not part of that. I'll leave Mako in charge of this ship," she said, pointing to her first mate who raised his hand. "He'll be your captain for the time being, along with a few of my men to make sure this ship sails smoothly. One week from now, when we make port, you will be free." More cheers came, and this time, Korra knew she wouldn't be able to silence them again.
She went over to Bolin instead, who was still standing guard over the officers of the Rhino. "Lock them up in the chains of the slaves. If the crew aren't willing to sail with slaves, put them in the hold as well. See how long they'll want to keep that up. Load the rest of the cargo on board the Aurora."
The bosun nodded. "You heard her! Lock them up!"
Korra smiled as she made her way back aboard her own ship. She'd made the world a better place, at least for one shipload of slaves.
For the collective works of the author, go here.