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|Tearing Up The City|
It was a long, grueling peregrination, but Kaeta finally arrived in Republic City with his friend and grandfather. The metropolis was a magnificent sight, and Ayala's sky bison roared ferociously as it zipped past a colossal sculpture of one of Brek's past lives, Avatar Aang. Kaeta could tell from the statue that Aang was a hero to many people, and his stance suggested that he was a leader, a pioneer whose followers must have admired him greatly. The sky bison skimmed the top of the clear, glassy water of Yue Bay as Zola gleamed at the city's tall, awe-inspiring skyscrapers and other architectural masterpieces.
"This is incredible!" Kaeta leapt to his feet in excitement, losing his balance and almost falling off his ride. He simply laughed, at a loss for words at how thrilled he was to arrive. He turned to say something to the others, but they could not hear it as his voice was eclipsed by a deafening buzzer. The Waterbender looked straight ahead and saw two men jump onto two different platforms. Then, they thrusted their arms at each other and sent out metal wires that attached to the opposite platform. This created a strong, metal fence in under five seconds and the trio was approaching fast. Kaeta yanked the reigns of the sky bison, and to his surprise, the beast halted in midair, narrowly avoiding a collision by about twelve feet.
"This is the RCPD!" boomed one man through a megaphone. "You cannot fly an unregistered vehicle- or in this case... animal... I guess..." he cleared his throat, "in this area! Please land so we can search your bison and grant you entrance into the city."
Kaeta complied with the officer's orders and made a swift touchdown on the ground. A squad of men in metal uniforms promptly walked over in their heavy armor and conducted a thorough inspection of the newcomers' luggage. While ravaging through Zola's bag, one of the men cut his hand on a sharp object. Bitterly, he pulled it out to see that it was the crown belonging to none other than the princess of the Fire Nation. He glanced up at the girl in disbelief, but recognized her at once.
"Princess Zola! I- I didn't see you at first." He turned to his fellow officers. "Don't you know who this is?"
"Of course I do now!" responded one, followed by the nods of the others. Their leader stepped forward and signaled. "Men, you are dismissed. Resume your previous positions... Your highness, I am deeply sorry for the intrusion."
"It's no problem, really," she responded shyly.
"I also would like to give you my condolences on the loss of your parents."
She nodded and smiled, but said nothing.
"If there's anything I can get you, anything at all, just-"
"You can make sure the Isha never breach Republic City."
The man paused and seemed confused, but then regained his seriousness. "Of course. For the safety of us all, we will protect this city's borders at all costs."
"Good. I think we'd like an apartment too, if that's okay with-"
"Of course!" In a desperate attempt to appease the foreign princess, the man whistled and signaled for two of his underlings to come. "Take the princess and her friends to the penthouse of that new hotel across from the arena. Tell the manager they can stay there for free as long as they like, Chief's orders."
"Uhh, but sir, the Chief never said-"
"Yeah, but... he would, wouldn't he?"
"Very well, sir."
"I've got some bad news guys," a frustrated Soza stormed into a gloomy room with a dusty table. Around it sat Sangti, Zhouray, and Kimma, anxious to here what the former Fire Nation captain had to say. She pulled out a newspaper and slammed it on the table. The headline read "Pro-Bending Tourney Pushed Two Months". As the rest of the team read it, they hissed and groaned in anger.
"Apparently," Soza continued, "the Firebender on the Tigerdillos and the Earthbender and Waterbender of the Gorilla Goats were injured in some freak accident during their last match. The arena's owner and the media are afraid that without the two teams, people will lose interest in the tournament."
"I was afraid this would happen." The four Isha officials let out a simultaneous, startled scream as Onjing spoke. Apparently, he had been meditating in the dark corner the entire time.
"My lord," Sangti began, puzzled, "How did you predict this?"
"Are you questioning my power, Earthbender?"
"No, of course not my liege, but-"
"Kofaru once warned me that the other spirits would try to interfere with our plans. What else did the paper say about the accident?"
Soza skimmed through the article once more "Blinding light... loud boom... earth disc to the leg... benders collided..."
"Now something tells me that was no accident. Spirits were certainly involved."
"Why would they do this?" asked Kimma.
"They want to delay our plans until our only threat arrives. The Avatar is coming to Republic City." Onjing spat and stamped out of the meeting room. He then darted through the air, gliding under power lines, between buildings, and over trucks. He didn't stop until reaching a small Satomobile occupied by a family of four- two sons no older than eight. He landed on the hood and he smashed through the windshield with a powerful gust, and he silenced the family's screams by suffocating them. He had no personal motive, just anger fueling this attack, and little did he know that he had murdered a figure of high importance. Within seconds, police were charging for him, but the Airbending master soon vanished.
Kaeta's mouth was wide-open when he first saw the hotel's penthouse. The first thing that caught his eye was the comfortable sofa to the left with a fish tank in the wall behind it. He ran to the couch and plopped on, letting out a deep sigh of relaxation. "Ooooh." Suddenly he was interested in something else. Gazing out the window, he could see the industrious city, including the glorious pro-bending arena.
"We outta head to that arena sometime," he said to the others.
"I was never interested in pro-bending," retorted Zola. "I prefer the traditional style of bending."
Kaeta's grandfather was not satisfied with her response. "Eh, you rich folk are all the same. To Hell, with ya!"
Zola gave her friend a quick glance that read Is he kidding? Kaeta simply shrugged, then looked at a device on the table in front of him. "What is that?"
"You've never seen a radio before?" asked Zola in disbelief.
"A radio huh?" The elderly man was rummaging through the food pantry. "We had one of them back in my tribe... My tribe... I probably should've told someone I was leaving..."
Kaeta thought for a moment. "I think I have heard of those. Turn it on!"
Zola searched through channels of static before reaching one of the many local news stations.
"...police investigators say their first priority is to search Air Temple Island and interrogate those with Airbending abilities. This decision was made by Chief Bulong after several witnesses said they saw the attacker send a gust of wind from his own hands. Medics at the sight also seem confident that the victims had signs of... ... ... this can't be correct... Victims had signs of suffocation."
Zola and Kaeta gasped, but shut their mouths to keep listening.
"Experts in the city have never before heard of any Airbender using his power to suffocate others, but some believe it could be a possibility. It seems that, as of now, police no where to start looking but are still unsure who caused the tragic murder of Administrator Thoris and his family today. Friends of the family are-"
Zola turned off the radio, her face as white as snow. "Kaeta, are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
"You heard the reporter. Experts say no other Airbenders have been reported to use that technique. It must have been him. We were right after all. Their next stop is here, in the city."
Zola got up.
"Where are you going?"
"The police are headed to Air Temple Island, wherever that is. We better tell them they're looking in the wrong place."
Reaching the island would normally have been simple, but the police had quickly shut down the ferry service and ordered a lockdown on the location. Nobody was to go in or out, and the residents were kept under strict supervision, being interrogated one by one. When the trio learned this, Kaeta's grandfather immediately gave up and decided to attend a "sit and be fit" class for the elderly.
Zola took initiative and approached the officer who appeared to be in charge. She was short and old with a wrinkly face and long gray hair tied in a bun.
"Excuse me ma'am I-"
"Who do you think you are to interrupt this operation? You better have something important to say! If not, get out of my way and shut up!"
"Umm what? This is a police operation! I don't have time for you!"
Kaeta stepped in. "My friend means to say that the man who killed Administrator Thoris isn't on the island. He's probably never been there."
The woman made an annoyed face. "All Airbenders of Republic City live there. Unless you're suggesting the murderer came from one of the original temples, halfway across the world populated by no more than fifteen each?"
"Well, I... Umm... Yes!"
"I'll have you know, sir, that the other temples always notify us when one of them leaves, so we can see to their safety and the peaceful repopulation of the Air Nomads."
"Really? And how many times have they alerted you of their plans to leave a temple before?"
The woman became even angrier before answering, "None so far. They like to stay put."
"That or they value their freedom and reject the idea of being monitored by your city."
"Watch it pal..."
"You know I'm right."
"Get out of here! I don't want to see your faces ever again! Go!"
After wiping the spit off his face, Kaeta concluded that he should leave with Zola. A few blocks down, they discussed what else they could do.
"We could face Onjing ourselves," Zola proposed.
"Are you kidding? We can barely beat the Isha with Berani and Brek's help. Besides, we don't even know where he is."
Zola sighed. "I should've played the princess card again."
"I doubt that lady would've even listened."
Coming up with no ideas in the next couple of minutes, the duo settled for getting bite to eat a nearby outdoor food court mobbed with hungry people sitting on benches, stools, and even the ground. They gave the area a quick scan, judging which place looked like it would have the tastiest food. While Zola was checking out a fried turkey-duck station, she noticed three peculiar figures dressed in brownish-green walk to the first stand. One stood on a bench and held a megaphone up to his mouth.
"Alright everyone! You know what time of the week it is. Cashiers, have your 1,000 yuans ready."
Not one customer moved. It was as if they didn't notice. The three bandits made their way through the court completely unchallenged, collecting money from each stand and shoving it into a bag.
"I don't believe this!" Zola exclaimed. "They're just... taking it! How come nobody's doing anything?"
"They're scared," responded Kaeta. "These guys must have a reputation for being violent when they need to be. The customers here understand know the drill. Don't get in their way, don't get hurt."
"That just isn't right."
"No... it isn't." In a split second, Kaeta took off, heading straight for the thieves. He leapt on to a table and forced water from a fountain directly at the guy with the money bag, knocking him into a rack of candy. One of his buddies then turned to Kaeta, shocked.
"Nobody messes with the Earth Rumblers. Nobody!" he roared. This declaration was followed by him stomping the ground, levitating a rock. He then punched it and sent it hurling at the Waterbender who dared to stand in his way. Kaeta jerked his head to the left, barely avoiding the blow. Another one came his way, but he jumped over it. At this point, everyone in the vicinity was screaming in terror and running for their lives. Children cried, and the elderly were trampled over. Kaeta formed a small water sprout to slightly elevate himself over the crowd. He then zeroed in on one of the thugs and sent an ice spear at him, which the defender blocked with wall of earth. What the Earthbender didn't expect was for Zola to emerge from the chaos, kicking fire blasts at him. His reactions were not quick enough, and he was torched by her blows. Another member of the gang then aimed at Zola with an Earth column, and when that missed he tried hitting her with a rock gauntlet. Again he missed, and after dodging a lightning strike, he bailed, using the hectic crowd as a veil. Kaeta joined Zola, and the two looked for the third, who had slipped away after being smashed into the candy rack. He too was missing.
The duo took off in pursuit of the cowards, but finding them was impossible. The place had just about cleared when they stopped looking.
"They got away," Kaeta muttered, defeated.
"One did," noted Zola, looking over the dead body of one of the Earth Rumblers. "Who ever knew this city was so infected with crime? And the way everyone just stood by like it was commonplace!"
"The police sure have a lot to worry about today." He thought for a moment. "That's it! We can get the police off the innocent Airbenders' backs and get them focused on finding Onjing!"
"And how do we do that."
"We commit a whole bunch of crimes! They'd leave the island and put the mainland under heavy surveillance."
"And that would lead them to arrest Onjing, how?"
"Onjing wears nothing but torn up black robes, right?"
After a few hours of shopping and apparel-change, Kaeta and Zola looked like two miniature Onjings, and they were ready to fight crime by committing crime. As they left their hotel, receiving odd looks for their dress, Zola decided to set a plant in the lobby on fire, and the two promptly ran out the revolving door. Following that, they exploded a few unoccupied Satomobiles, shattered glass windows in every shop they could find, knocked down a few power lines, flooded some streets with sewer water, and froze a couple of cops. Most police were so busy with their work at Air Temple Island that they did not arrive on scene until after the troublemakers had changed back in to their original clothing.
"Did you feel that rush, Kaeta! I could do that all day!" Zola was breathing intensely.
"Yeah, you kinda scared me back there... and in here..."
"We did it! Now the police will search everywhere for the people in black. Onjing can't leave his hiding spot for a second without getting attacked by cops."
"The only down side is now Onjing knows where here."
"I wouldn't be surprised if he already did."
Kimma knelt before addressing her master, as always. "Our- your suspicions were correct. Given that two black-robed figures just caused mass damage in the city, we can conclude that the Avatar has arrived and has tried to frame you."
"It wasn't the Avatar. It was the Fire Nation princess and that Waterbender who smells bad. You know both of their parents well, yes?"
"My lord... you know I killed them."
"And how proud you made me that day!"
"Sir, there is no greater honor then receiving praise from you, but when I killed the princess' parents, I also killed Zhouray's- that made me a bit..."
"Uncomfortable?" Onjing was irritated. "Are you with me or not, Kimma? I need to know you're on my side."
"Of course, Lord. I just think Zhouray has been struggling. He hasn't quite gotten over it."
"Then make him get over it!"
"Yes, my Lord. Of course, my Lord." Kimma whimpered apologies as she left Onjing to be alone. Her body was shaking as she ambled down a dark, damp hall to the Isha's meeting room. When she entered, her allies were discussing their final plan again.
"It really is simple," noted Zhouray. "Kimma, Sangti, and I enter the big tournament, win with some behind-the-scenes help from Onjing, we're granted a feast with the United Republic Council, the mayor, and Chief Gulong, we kill them, and Soza helps Onjing unleash our risen recruits onto the city to destroy the filthy Cha Jin De's. Onjing then declares himself the leader of the New Order, and we all become the most powerful team in the world. The Fire Nation is ours, the Earth Kingdom is ours, the Water Tribes are devastated, and the Republic will soon be ours."
Sangti chuckled with joy. "It's perfect. It's simply perfect."
Kimma spoke up, her voice trembling. "Good luck finding another Waterbender for your team. I'm out."
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