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-"Korra, get down here immediately. You need to see this," her father called from downstairs. Korra was busy rewriting the Laws of Improbability by dodging hundreds of Russians on a snowmobile and jumping it over a massive abyss in Modern Warfare 2, but she decided that if her father called her down like that, it would probably be serious.
Once down, her mother was sitting on the couch and her father was standing next to her, and both of them had their eyes glued to the television. It was on the news, unsurprisingly, but what was on it was. Fox News to be exact, and the screen showed a surprisingly clear picture of her kissing Opal, right on their front doorstep. Damn, we do look pretty good together, but I doubt he would call me over here to admire that.
-"...our Congressman has claimed to be against homosexuality for years now, yet we have photographic evidence that his own daughter has been engaged in such a relationship for at least three months," a man with a Southern accent said.
-"But do you think the Congressman endorsed, or even knew?"
-"We have contacted Congressman Tonraq's office, but they refused to comment. But I think this does raise an important question: if he cannot raise his own daughter properly, how can we expect him to run the country in a way that we deem fit?"
Her father angrily shut off the TV and turned to Korra. "Someone has been spying on us. I assume you didn't know about photographs like this?"
Korra shook her head. "No. Do you think Lin tipped them off?"
Tonraq hesitated for a bit. "Seems unlikely. She doesn't have anything to gain by selling you out. Plus, if she knew for three months, why would she only tell me now?"
"But the timing makes coincidence seem hard to swallow. She finds out and three days later my face is plastered all over the news." Korra's mind was racing a mile a minute now. There weren't a lot of people who knew about her and Opal, and the ones that would make the connection with her father were pretty much limited to Asami, the Beifongs and... Mako.
That motherfucking, backstabbing, son of a bitch... Before Korra knew full well what she was doing, she was running out the door and ramming on Mako's. "Mako! Open up!"
He opened, and narrowly managed to avoid another right cross from Korra. "Did you just come here to punch me again?"
"You son of a bitch, you..." but she was interrupted by her father, who also came in. "Korra! Mako didn't do this. Or did you?"
-"Wait, what the hell are you two talking about? Will someone explain this to me?!" Mako exclaimed.
Tonraq took a deep breath, and stood half between Korra and Mako. "Someone leaked photos of Korra and Opal to the news and they are now trying to smear me with it." He turned back to his daughter. "Korra, be rational about it. What on earth would Mako have to gain by this? Getting even with you by taking it out on me?"
Korra's eyes were still on fire, but she did calm down. "Did you?" she bit to Mako.
-"No! I have no idea what you are talking about, I don't have any pictures of you and Opal, and I certainly didn't leak anything to the press."
Tonraq gave him a cold stare, but eventually softened. "Very well. Korra, we are going back. We have something to discuss." He pushed Korra through the door, before turning around to Mako again. "And I'm sorry about all this." He walked back with large paces, half ignoring Korra, who followed him to his study. He shut the door behind them.
-"Korra, I gotta make some phone calls. So do you, for that matter."
This confused her. "What are you talking about?"
-"In about fifteen minutes, there is going to be an army of reporters out there. And there is going to be another one outside of the Beifong's house, so you need to warn them. I'm gonna call my office, see if they can figure who and what did this, and what our next move is going to be."
He picked up the telephone from his desk, and Korra got her phone out of her pocket to call Opal. When she was done, there was indeed a mass of reporters outside of their house, trying to get a good picture of them. Korra was peeking through the now shut curtains, and walked back into her father's study, where he just slammed the phone back on the hook. It was quite clear to Korra that he was seething with rage. "Bastards..." he breathed.
"What are you talking about?"
-"What the guy on the news said isn't true. They never called my office for a statement, but I have to make one now. I can't wait for this all to blow over."
"But what are we going to do about it?"
He sighed. "I can't leave this house with someone knowing about it. My office has basically given me two options: lie or tell the truth. There is no waiting this out. I'll get in front of the cameras. They can go after me all they want, but I will not stand by and watch as someone uses you as a political tool."
Korra was concerned, but also somewhat relieved. Even if they weren't on the best of terms, he was still protecting her. Use this. "What would the lie be?"
-"I'd say that I didn't know, and that you kept this hidden from me all this time. It wouldn't even be a total lie," he bitterly remarked.
It did get her smiling. "Yeah, I suppose. But if you get caught lying, you're a dead man walking. And you are a terrible liar. Now that it's out, they are going to ask you of your opinion anyway, so I'd say 'tell the truth'. Most of it, anyway. Let's keep quiet that you kicked me out of the house and left us for nearly a month."
Her father smiled too. "Let's. I'll call my office, have them draft up a statement. I want this over, and I'm going to get the bastard who did this." He thought for a moment. "You need to go to the Beifong Estate."
Korra looked up at his last comment. "That doesn't sound like you."
-"I know. But I need you to inform them that I am behind you. Suyin Beifong is probably pulling her hair out over this, and I don't want to antagonize someone who could do a lot of damage. I'll call you when I'm going to address all those reporters."
"Fair enough." Korra walked to the door, but her father stopped her.
-"Korra? Go ask Katara if you can borrow her car. Running down a dozen reporters is a bad idea."
Korra smiled. "Yeah, it probably is." She got some stuff, half preparing to stay the night at the Beifong Estate. Katara was their eighty-something year old neighbor that lived behind them. One could get there by scaling the fence, or what Korra did when she was still little and adorable, crawl under it. Climbing seems like the better option now though. She used to sneak over there, because Katara was a lovely old lady that had some abandonment issues. It also helped that she would allow Korra to have as many delicious cookies as she could eat. She really was a surrogate grandmother for Korra, who never knew her own.
A knock on the window drew Katara's attention. Korra waved, and she let her in.
-"Korra, how wonderful to see you. Have you seen the news?"
"Yes Katara, that's why I'm here. I need to get out of here, but there is an army of reporters blocking my way out of my house. So I may have a bit of a strange request: can I borrow your car?"
-"Why is that, dear?"
"I need to go over to my girlfriend. She is going crazy over this and I want to be there, but I can't leave in my own car."
Katara smiled. "Of course you can." She pulled up her purse, and handed Korra a bunch of keys. One was unmistakably for her car, so Korra took that one off.
"I'll try to be back later today. I hope the Beifong's haven't been swamped by reporters too."
-"Well, take your time Korra, I've got nowhere I need to be."
Korra gave her a hug. "Thank you, Katara. This really helps."
-"I know it does dear. You go now."
Korra walked outside, where she found Katara's Buick Park Avenue, a car so awful Jeremy Clarkson once said about it that he would rather go on the bus than take that. Still, it moved, and for now, that was going to have to do.
The queue at the Beifong Estate wasn't nearly as big, but they did see her coming, and the cameras were all pointing at her. The reporters were bloodhounds of course, but her father's prediction had been accurate. How tempting it is to run these fucking leeches down. But let's not, for appearances sake. She revved the engine a few times and honked to get them out of the way, and they wisely did. Someone in the house opened the gates for her, and she could ride up to the house quietly. Su let her in, and directed her to the kitchen, where Opal was sitting at the table with a cup of tea.
Korra sat down opposite of her, while Su sat down next to her daughter. "So..." Korra began hesitatingly. "I imagine you want to know about the reporters outside your gate?"
-"You can say that again," Su coldly replied.
"It's a smear campaign, that's what it is. Someone is hoping to knock my father down a peg by using me as leverage."
Opal was surprised. "Someone would actually sink that low?"
Korra nodded. "You know what they say: all is fair in love and war, but in politics too, apparently. It's a dirty business."
-"What are you going to do about it?" Su asked.
"My father is going to give a statement, and then he is going to find out who did it. It's not going to be pretty, that I can assure you of."
Su thought for a moment. "He's actually going to defend you?"
"He will. He just said he's not going to sit on his hands while someone does this."
-"Whatever he finds out, I want to help. No way in hell am I letting someone use Opal like this, or you for that matter."
Korra's phone buzzed. It was her father texting her that he was about to give his statement. The three of them moved to the living room, where Su turned on the television. Her father just walked on screen. Korra smiled as she saw that he had put on his best suit, had immaculately combed his hair and given himself an extra shave. Intimidate them with formality.
A volley of questions came from the reporters, but Tonraq just raised his hand to silence them all until they calmed down. "Good afternoon. I will give a brief statement, and afterwards I will take a few questions. So if you would please let me finish first, this is going to move a lot faster." He paused for a moment, taking a deep breath. "Recently, photographs have been publicized of my daughter kissing another female, linking it to my stern stance against homosexuality. While this is true, and I still stand by what I said, my daughter's life is her own to lead. I do not agree with her homosexuality, but that is not my choice to make. This is the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and this is her way of exploring herself and her freedom. I will take questions now."
A volley of people shouting "Congressman!" followed, and her father pointed at one to ask a question. "Congressman, the anti-homosexuality was a large part of your election campaign. Has this impaired your views?"
Tonraq thought for a moment. "No it has not. I am perfectly capable of separating my personal life from my professional career. This has put tension on our relationship," That's putting things mildly, "but it has not impaired my judgment. Next question."
He pointed at another reporter, who wasted no time. "What do you think about this, Congressman?"
-"I think that..." but he didn't finish his sentence. He looked into several cameras, weighing his options. "No," he eventually stated. "People have given me all sorts of advice what answer to give to that question. But to me, that question is irrelevant. My daughter is gay, so what? It's her life, not mine. She isn't breaking any laws, and she isn't actively looking to offend people. She is living her life her way, and someone is now trying to turn that on me." The reporter tried to interrupt him, but Tonraq just kept on talking. "I'll tell you exactly what this is: this is a smear campaign. There is someone out there who is looking to benefit from this, but I am not supposed to say that. But what I can say is this: I find this revolting. I find it revolting that someone would dare use my family's personal life against me. The main picture that you all use, because it's the clearest, was taken right here on the front doorstep of this house. I don't know much about photography, but I do know my own neighborhood. It was taken from around there, where that red car is parked."
Her father was pointing somewhere behind the camera, and it swung around to show the scene behind them. The red car Tonraq was referring to was parked less than a hundred feet from where the camera was standing. It swung back to her father, who was still talking. "Someone invaded my daughter's privacy for this. Not for any form of national security, but for their own personal gain. I love my daughter dearly, and that she is homosexual is a different matter entirely. Someone dared to paint a target on her head in the hope that the collateral damage would hurt me. Whoever did this, I invite you to step up, and to convince me why you are better at my job than I am. That is all."
He walked back into the house, while the reporters all started yelling in a pathetic attempt to ask more questions. Korra couldn't repress a massive grin, and yet the tears were jerking on the corners of her eyes. Opal stood next to her and took her hand. "Do you think he meant it?"
Korra smiled. "I think so. I need to call him." She took her phone, and dialed for her father. He soon answered. "What did you think?"
She could hear the smug grin through the phone. "I think you were great. Do you think this will fix things?"
He sighed. "I don't know. I probably stepped on a lot of toes, but I wasn't about to lie because it's politically correct."
"Did you mean it?"
Tonraq didn't even hesitate. "Every word."
"Are you any closer to find out who did this?"
-"We've got a long way to go, but we don't want to do this over the phone. It might be bugged, I'll get you a new one."
Korra thought for a moment. He was right, her phone probably was bugged. "Do you want me to bring reinforcements back to the house?"
-"Sounds good. See you in a bit."
He hung up, and Korra turned back to Su and Opal. "My father is working on leads trying to find out who did this. Su, you said you wanted help with that. Would you mind coming back to my place?"
-"No I would not. Opal, do you have any objections?"
Opal sighed. "Korra, a word?" She took Korra by the arm, walking her back into the kitchen. "This is ridiculous. Are you really so pissed off about this that you are going to look for revenge on someone far out there in the political field?"
"No, Opal, what I'm trying to do is trying to fix my relationship with my father. We've spoken more in the past six hours than we have in the past six months. You heard what he said to the press, he still loves me."
She didn't look convinced. "Korra, he kicked you out of the house. You just said it, you've barely spoken in the past six months. Do you really think that it's true?"
Korra sighed. "I do." She hesitated for a moment. "You know how we're from Arkansas, right? Well, back there, I had a couple of friends. Not many, but I could get by. I have never been that sociable, but you knew that. When my dad got elected into Congress, we moved here, and I think you can figure out what happened next. New girl, poor social skills, and a hilarious deep southern accent."
-"You got bullied a lot."
"You can say that again. That was, until I was eleven. I was quite big for my age, and one day, the kid who always bullied me pushed me too far. Just like with Mako, I sucker punched his lights out, but then I just kept going. It took two teachers to pull me away from him. By the time I was done, I could barely feel my arm, and I broke his cheekbone, jaw, and nose, the last one in three places. With me, I broke three bones in my hand." Korra smiled. "My dad was totally cool with it. He knew about the bullying, and was proud of me that I stood up for myself. The principal of course wasn't, but my dad cancelled a meeting with the Speaker of the House to come down to my school and defend me. I still remember that, because it was so important to him, but he told me that he would do it again without a second's hesitation."
She sighed again. "Things used to be different. We trusted each other with everything. I told him which boy I had a crush on, he would tell me which members of Congress he secretly hated. Which turned out to be almost all of them, so he could have saved me a lot of time, there, but it was fun. We just grew apart over time. It happens, there's not much you can do about it. Me coming out of the closet didn't help, and now I have a chance to make things right again. I want to take that chance."
Opal fell silent for a bit. "Well, you helped me with Lin, I can help you with this." She gave Korra a chaste kiss on the lips. "Let's do this."
The walked around to get Su, and got back into Katara's car. The ride back wasn't really filled with much, each of them lost in their own thoughts. Climbing over the fence was a touch awkward for Su, but she kept in shape, so it wasn't impossible. When they walked into her father's study again, he just slammed the phone on the hook again. "That motherfucking, backstabbing, son of a bitch..." he breathed.
"What did they find out?"
"The Vice President? He did this?"
Tonraq nodded. "His brother is semi-successful at the Governor's office back in Arkansas. I locked him out of the race for the fifth district a year ago because he's a maniac. Now they are trying to knock me down a peg so that he can take my seat."
-"Makes sense," Su threw in. "The VP gains leverage in the house and establishes dominance there, his brother gets even and climbs the political ladder."
-"I'm gonna get the bastard. I'm going to find dirt on him and rub his face in it," Tonraq said, utterly sure of it.
"And what makes you think you have a chance?" Korra asked. "He was vetted and deemed fit for office. If they can't find anything, why would you?"
-"Because they weren't motivated. I am. Nobody gets to the executive level without a few skeletons in the closet. He's just very good at hiding them. All I need to do is find the right closet and give it a good kick."
"It's probably going to be a little more difficult than that."
Tonraq sighed. "I know. If we are going to do this, we are going to war with the second most powerful man in the free world. Do you think you're up for it?"
Korra looked at the Beifongs, both of whom nodded at her. She turned back to her father and a sly grin slid across her face. "History is written by the victor. Let's get to work."
For the collective works of the author, go here.