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|Soldier of Misfortune|
It had been a month since her first date with Kai, and things between them couldn't be better. Jinora had picked her regular schedule back up, and because she spent less time out on the streets, her grades were steadily climbing again. Aside from plenty of teasing from her siblings, all of which she ignored, they were doing great. Even though Jinora had her doubts about dating a petty criminal, Kai was just a big fuzzy sweetheart when it all came down to it. He had very limited funds just like she had, but he still went out of his way to make it work for both of them. Go to a movie here, get a drink there, and of course the occasional make-out session after dating.
Miraculously enough, she had managed to talk Korra into going on a double date which turned out to be great fun. 'Three criminals and a stripper walk into a bar,' Kai couldn't resist saying. Sounds like the beginning to a bad joke. Still, the evening turned out good for all of them, and it was definitely something to be repeated.
Unfortunately, not tonight. Kai had been tipped off by his friends on an easy break-in that was just too good to pass up. This left Jinora alone for the evening. She was quietly reading a book in her room when her phone rang. When she answered, it turned out to be Korra.
-"We need you, at the den, as soon as you can."
"What? It's my night off."
-"This comes directly from The General. He doesn't mess around with this, so you better take him seriously."
Jinora sighed. "Alright. I'm on my way."
-"And Jin?" Korra hesitated for a moment. "Bring the rain, and don't forget the mask."
Korra hung up immediately after, but Jinora knew what she meant. Reluctantly, she threw on her hoodie, tied the bandana around her neck, and stuffed her gun in her front pocket.
It was drizzling, so the walk to the den turned into more of a jog. She was slightly out of breath when she walked in, and saw Iroh, Korra and Tahno stand over a table with ammunition and empty magazines that they were quickly filling up. She grew a bit suspicious at this, and was suddenly feeling a trickle of doubt.
"What's all this?" she asked to no one in particular.
-"You're joining us for a raid," Iroh answered. "There are some people who screwed me over and they need to be taught a lesson. That's what we are going to do, and I want you there with us." Iroh handed her an extra full magazine, which she recognized as one that would fit in her gun.
"What did they do?"
-"The cut up my product, yet they keep selling it under the same name and for the same price. They use the rest of it themselves, thinking they can get away with fucking me like that. There are four of them, and it's The Red Lotus that I've mentioned before. It's a shame to see them go, they were very profitable for years. But now they have decided to cut me out of my share, so I will turn them into a cautionary tale."
She was very hesitant to take it, and Iroh picked up on this. "Jinora, you're nervous, and I understand that. I mean, the first raid always does that to people." He paused for a moment. "You know how we play by certain rules? The people we are about to visit, they don't. They sell to whoever they want to, even kids. They're also threatening to sell us out to the heat, and they know about you. What we're about to do is self-preservation."
"Still... Are you... asking me to kill people? That's not what I signed on for."
Iroh sighed. "I can't have you just in on the easy part and rake in the profits, but back out of the part that no one likes. You're either in or you're not. Korra warned you about the ugly side of this work, and this is what the ugly side looks like."
Jinora weighed her options. She couldn't walk away now, that much was certain. No way in hell would Iroh let her. Plus, he was kind of right, she had been warned about it turning ugly. But this...? This was not what she had imagined. She thought things had been bad when she had to pull her gun on Kai, and he forced her into a corner. Now though, Iroh was telling her to actively seek out a fight, something Jinora had never been a fan of. She always had been one for avoiding those, certainly when people were bound to die.
Korra picked up on Jinora's hesitation. She walked over to the room next to it, signaling Jinora to follow her. "Give us a minute, guys."
After Korra shut the door behind them, she slowly turned to face Jinora. "Look, Jin, I don't like this either. I don't like that Iroh is making you go along with this, but he made up his mind. He wants you there, and there is nothing I could do to talk him out of it."
"Korra, I'm not some kind of killer! You know why I'm in it, for the money, and nothing else. Can't he get some people who get a kick out of this shit?"
Korra sighed. "I told you, he wants you there, no discussion. You don't have a choice, not if you want to keep up the streak you have going on here." She lowered her voice and continued on a whisper. "There is a bright side. We have made a plan to split up into two teams, he and Tahno will go along the fire escape, while you and I go in through the front door. I don't care if you miss every shot you fire, but you can't walk away from there with two full mags. You hear me?"
She felt somewhat relieved, but still wasn't entirely at ease. Iroh had handed her one mag extra, and she was already walking around with a loaded gun. Fourteen shots, and she had to fire them in the general direction of people. That would mean they had awfully bad chances, given that they would most likely be high off their ass. But if they were, their chances where already nill, given that Iroh and Tahno would have no problems pumping them full of lead. Then there was Korra, who didn't like it, but she would do it if Iroh asked.
"Alright," Jinora said. "But will you cover for me if I do that?"
Korra smiled. "Of course I would. Why do you think I'm here?"
This did make Jinora feel somewhat better. She was certainly glad she hadn't gone through with her bluff of going to someone else. Korra would always look out for her, and that already put Jinora at ease somewhat.
They stepped outside again, just as Iroh slid a magazine into his gun, cocked, and holstered it, all on muscle memory. "Did Korra fill you in on the plan?" he asked.
Jinora simply nodded.
-"Good. Now, the place they're in has a very simple lay-out. One open room, and an open kitchen with the counter pointing the wrong way. The only closed off room is the bathroom, but they could also find cover in the kitchen. Now Tahno and I can cover the kitchen from the fire escape, but the crapper is out of our reach, and with this hardware, we can't punch through the walls, so don't let them get into there. The fire escape is at the left wall from the front door, so don't shoot in our direction."
-"Don't worry," Korra said with a smirk. "We won't."
Iroh nodded. "Alright, then let's roll." He preceded them down the stairs, and they decided to walk to the building they were supposedly in. She put up her hood, trying to stay dry as much as she could. It was quite a walk, and the gun felt heavy in Jinora's pocket. She really wasn't looking forward to what was about to happen, but Korra was right. She didn't have a choice.
Eventually, they were in the shittiest part of the Dragon Flats, which made Jinora feel decidedly uncomfortable. She knew of this place, but her mother always warned her not to go here. Another thing she'd be disappointed to hear. Along with, you know, the whole 'your daughter has turned to drugdealing.' Yep. This should be good.
-"This is it," Iroh eventually said. Jinora looked up at a building that was in extremely bad shape. The door probably hadn't had a lick of fresh paint in over twenty years, and she didn't even want to guess how long the windows hadn't been cleaned. "Third floor, apartment 303, and wait for my signal," Iroh said.
Korra nodded, and led Jinora inside through a door which had its lock busted years ago, by the looks of things. They silently walked up to the third floor, and picked out the right door. Jinora's heartbeat was speeding up, and it was now almost painful in her chest. She took a few deep breaths in an attempt to calm herself down, but it didn't work. Korra pulled out her gun, and leaned against the side of the door with the hinges. Jinora did the same, and switched the selector to 'fire'.
A buzz came from Korra's phone, which was Iroh's signal. 10 seconds left until Korra would kick down the door. Jinora pulled her bandana over her nose, covering her mouth with black fabric with the three blue spirals on it.
Time seemed to slow down. To say that Jinora had ever been more nervous, or scared, or angry at herself for letting herself get pushed into this corner, would be an understatement. But now here she was, about to get into a firefight with four other criminals. 'Other' being the operative term here.
Korra held up her hand, telling her that there were five more seconds left. Jinora took a deep breath, and closed her eyes. She opened them again when she heard a loud crash, signaling that Korra had actually kicked the door down. She raised her gun, past the door frame, pointing to a corner of the room. There was actually someone there, not that that mattered to Jinora. She rapidly pulled the trigger a few times on a row, while she also heard Korra's gun go off. That was the far louder one, which was in Jinora's advantage.
Jinora spotted a shotgun from the corner of her eye, and ducked back behind her wall just in the nick of time. There was a loud shot, quickly followed by a cloud of dust and a rain of splinters from the wall and doorframe. Damn, that nearly cost you your life. There was a surge of adrenaline racing through her body, as she stuck her gun around the door again, but this time was firing blindly in the direction of the shotgun until her pistol clicked empty.
Korra did the opposite, she leaned around the doorpost, actually aiming down her gun while Jinora reloaded. Even though she couldn't see what was happening, the loud cry of pain and a dull thud told her enough: at least one of them was already down.
Her hands were shaking, but she managed to slide in a new magazine, and cocked the slide again. She heard how Iroh and Tahno were still firing, and judging by the sounds of it, shot another one of the Red Lotus. Korra looked over to Jinora, and gave her a small nod. They stuck their guns around the doorpost at the same time, and Jinora finally got a read on where they were. One had thrown over the table, and the other had ducked behind the kitchen counter. Korra took aim at the one behind the table, so Jinora just shot in the direction of the kitchen.
A splatter of blood appeared on the wall behind the table, meaning that whoever was behind it was now dead. This was confirmed by the fact that he was no longer shooting back. Jinora shot one more time at the kitchen counter, and heard her gun click empty again. Finally. She ducked back behind the wall, and Korra had to do the same to reload again. The last one used this time to shoot at the fire escape again, in an attempt to get into the bathroom.
Korra was about to open fire again, when Iroh's voice stopped her. "Hold fire!" he yelled, and Korra did. "Zaheer! Give up, you're outgunned and outnumbered!" Nothing happened, so Tahno and Iroh stepped through the window. "Don't make us come get you, it will only be more painful for you that way!"
-"Stop," Zaheer said calmly, and kicked his gun along the floor, out of the bathroom. He stepped out with his hands in the air. "Do what you have to," he firmly stated. Korra signaled Jinora that they should walk in there too, and so they stepped out of their cover.
Now the gunfire had stopped, Jinora had a chance to properly look around the small apartment. The air was heavy with the sickly smell of blood, which was all over the place. There were three bodies strewn across the room. She saw the shotgun that had nearly killed her next to a giant woman with a tattoo on her forehead, and next to her was another woman with pitch-black hair. There was a guy with long hair dead behind the table, and his brains were on the wall behind it. Jinora felt like throwing up, but swallowed it for sake of keeping up appearances.
-"Airbender." Iroh's voice pulled her back into reality. "Give me your gun," he demanded.
She wasn't sure why he would want her gun. It was the smallest one here, and more importantly, it was empty. "Umm, sure," she said, while handing it over. "I'm out though."
-"I know," Iroh said. "I was counting on it." He took a new magazine from his back pocket, and slid it into Jinora's gun. "On your knees," he told Zaheer. The short, bald man complied, not even a hint of protest. Iroh smiled. "Any last words?"
-"Make it quick," Zaheer evenly replied.
Jinora took a deep breath, realizing that she was about to witness an execution.
As it turned out, it would be worse than she could have ever imagined.
Iroh grabbed the gun by the barrel, and held it out to her again. "Airbender, you're going to do this one."
She whipped her head around to face Iroh. "WHAT?!"
His face was as calm as ever. "You heard me. I want you to kill him."
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