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|The Avatar and The Gunfighter|
Book 2: War
September 27th, 2013
Secrets and feelings are reviled as John searches for Korra.
John sat in the small jail cell, staring at the far wall and wondering to himself how it had come to this. He had answered a call for assistance with his fellow Refugees to the Dragon Flats Borough with the intention of stopping an Equalist uprising. What they had found had been quite different. Chief Saikhan, Lin's replacement after the events of the Factory, had ordered several non benders to return to their homes alongside Tarrlok.
When the councilman ordered the arrest of several innocent non benders, along with Asami, the situation almost escalated to bloodshed when John threatened to fire on the police. He had been arrested along with the others in Team Avatar when he detonated the gas tank in one of the police trucks. His fellow Refugees returned to the borough on his orders, in an effort to avoid an all out war between them, the Equalists, and the city itself.
Now here he sat, alone in a simple cell while waiting for something to happen. The thought of escaping with matterbending had crossed his mind, but he decided against it. Instead, he focused on igniting the random particles of dust that floated in the air with combustion by snapping his fingers.
A bang came from beyond the cell door, followed closely by the door itself being ripped away. Light flooded the dark cell, blinding the firebender. As his eyes adjusted to the sudden change in light level, Lin and Mako swam into his vision.
"Come on, John. Korra's been kidnapped and I'm breaking you out," she said. Sitting up a little straighter, confusion became evident on John's face.
"She's been what?"
"Equalists attacked city hall last night, Korra was taken during the fight," Mako said. A series of emotions flared in the young man's eyes, chief among them: anger.
Somewhere high in the mountains.
"Someone, help! Please!" Korra shouted, putting the last of her strength into pounding on the metal box that contained her. Taking a breath, she sank to the bottom of the box, giving up on trying to escape. A conversation she had with Tenzin echoed in her mind, giving her advice that at the time she had dismissed. Pulling herself up into a meditating position, Korra took another breath and began to relax.
Images flooded her mind, blocking out everything else around her. Slowly they formed into one solid image. She was standing on a random street, beside her stood a man that wore a long leather jacket that reminded her of the one John always wore. Studying the man, she realized that she was looking at John's father, Liam. The airbender had a goatee and a worn hat that sat on his head. All in all, the man was rather handsome, although Korra thought that his son looked better.
Her view suddenly turned, and she found herself looking at a woman leading a small group of police. Korra realized that she was looking at Toph Beifong, recognizing her from the statue that stood outside of the police station.
"Why did you bring Liam, Aang? I told you I could handle this," she said.
"Under normal circumstances neither one of us would have gotten involved, but if what those witnesses said was true we're not dealing with a normal criminal." Korra instinctively knew that the voice belonged to Aang. She quickly realized that she was watching this through the eyes of the previous Avatar.
"Fine. Follow me twinkle toes."
"Toph, I'm forty years old. Do you think you can stop with the nicknames?"
"'Fraid not." Korra heard what must have been a chuckle from Liam before she snapped her eyes open. She was back in the box, still as trapped as ever.
"I'll have to call you back," Tenzin said into his phone as he watched the small group enter his office.
"What have you got on Korra?" John asked, walking ahead of the rest of the group and leaning forward on the desk.
"John, What..You four should be in prison, and Lin you should be in the hospital." The firebender snapped his fingers, bringing Tenzin's attention back to him.
"Tenzin. I've spent the past six hours igniting dust in a jail cell only to get out and find that my best friend has been captured. Now do you have anything or not?"
"No. I've been on the phone all morning trying to find something out. According to Tarrlok, Equalists attacked here last night, knocking him out and taking Korra," Tenzin said. Lin stepped forward and placed her hand on John's shoulder.
"I bet they're holding her in the tunnels under the city."
"Yeah, that makes since. When the Equalists took me it sounded like we drove into a tunnel," Bolin said, speaking up. John kicked the desk before he pinched the bridge of his nose in frustration.
"The Hellraisers have been down there mapping it out ever since we got here. It's a damn labyrinth," he said.
"We will find Korra, John. But right now you need to focus, your feelings for her are clouding your judgment," Lin said.
"Clouding no, focusing yes." Turning away from the group, John walked out into the main room and began to study the scene where the battle had taken place the night before. The more he investigated, the more he began to question Tarrlok's story.
"Strange isn't it? How our emotions can challenge everything our eyes see." The firebender quickly drew his pistol and spun around, aiming directly between Dante's eyes.
"What are you? The last time we met you spoke only in cryptic riddles and praised me for getting men killed. Now I am not in the best state of mind right not so I suggest answering." Dante walked forward to the railing on the balcony they stood on, looking over the scene with a calmness.
"I am the man who should be down on my knees thanking you for my release."
Korra took another deep breath and allowed the vision to wash over her again. Rather than a street, she saw a courtroom, or rather the council room that she had fought Tarrlok in. Aang sat just behind Yakone, with Liam sitting next to him.
"We got him this time, brother," came Liam's hushed voice just before Sokka began to deliver the verdict.
"In my years, I have encountered people with rare and unique bending abilities. I once bested a man with my trusty boomerang who was able to firebend with his mind. One of my closest friends eliminated half of Fire Lord Ozai's Air Fleet with his bending alone. Why even metalbending was considered impossible for all of history until our esteemed chief of police, Toph Beifong, developed the skill. The overwhelming amount of evidence has convinced this council that Yakone is one of these benders, and he exploited his ability to commit these heinous crimes. We find Yakone guilty of all charges, and sentience him to life in prison."
Even as the small wooden hammer fell, Yakone rose from his seat. Instantly, Sokka cried out as he and the others on the council fell under the control of bloodbending. Toph, Liam, and Aang all began to move forward to stop him, but fell under the influence of the bending as well. Out of the corner of her vision, Korra could see Liam aiming his highly decorated Colt Single Action Army at Yakone, but the bloodbending kept him from pulling the trigger.
With movement from his hands, the bloodbender guided Toph over to him and forced her to release his bonds. With that, he flicked his wrists and knocked everyone but Liam and Aang out.
"What the hell is that supposed to mean? I've never even met you, much less freed you from anything." Dante turned and faced John, his hand raised. The familiar wisps that came with the use of matterbending swirled around his palm. Images instantly flooded John's mind. He recognized the feeling from when he had unlocked matterbending by touching the urn. Instead of images teaching him how to use the art, however, he saw twelve rings organized in a circle like a clock face. The firebender recognized this as the whole of existence, the twelve universes laid out in their ever continuing dance.
"I hail from the Seventh Universe, John Rider. An ancient place where the old battled the new. Where greed and the lust for power rained supreme."
Dante's voice echoed through the images, like a narrator of a movie. The image focused on the ring resting where the number seven would be on a clock. Hills and trees appeared in a peaceful landscape, but it was dominated by several massive orange mushroom clouds.
"We learned to bend the very fabric of existence to our will. But the greed and the lust took root, and our world was poisoned by the power of the sun."
The scene focused on a young man, which John recognized as Dante. He was wearing a radiation suit and a gas mask, and his hands glowed with matterbending. Black soot rained down from an even blacker sky as Dante pulled his hands apart like he was opening an elevator door. A thin crack of light spit in between his hands, growing brighter as he forced it apart even more. John watched as the young man struggled as if he was prying two cars apart. Finally, Dante's form that was illuminated by the light tumbled through the crack, which snapped shut behind him.
"I found myself in the place between places, the plain of the Spirits. But my abilities were rendered useless, and I became trapped. I realized that I could escape my prison by using The Avatar."
The images changed again. This time Dante was wearing the attire he wore now, standing amongst the twisted trees and swamps of the Spirit World. Above him, a blue white comet of light arced through the air. Dante reacted quickly, using his agility to climb a tree and catch the spirit as it past. Rather than stop, the spirit and Dante sailed though the air before vanishing in a flash of light.
"But I was mistaken in my calculations, and rather then being pulled through into the next universe, I became trapped again. Somehow I was still connected to The Avatar, but I could do nothing to free myself and for seventeen years I remained. Until, finally, you freed me."
As if sensing John's confusion, a new image appeared. He recognized the scene; it was Korra kissing him the night of the shootout at the station.
The images stopped, and John's vision returned. He was back in the council room, and his center of gravity was far more off balanced.
"You still haven't explained why you're here," he said as he balanced himself against the railing.
"I'm here because I have made my decision. I have seen what this Amon plans to do, and frankly I have no need for it." John nodded at that. His home was what this place could look like if Amon got his way, and that was not something he intended to let happen.
"Finally picked a side then," he said. Dante nodded, a grin forming on his usually emotionless face.
"Amon is soon to make his final move. When that time comes I will lend any assistance that I can." John returned his attention to the scene, focusing on the various points of damage. One thing that caught his attention was the random bola that was rapped around the top of one of the pillars. Equalists that would have been chosen to participate in an attack like this wouldn't have missed their target to the point that the bola would rap around a pillar so far out of line.
Turning back, he realized that Dante had disappeared.
"I hate it when people do that," he muttered to himself before returning to Tenzin's office. The airbending master was speaking on the phone again while Lin and the others studied a series of maps of the city. Without missing a beat, John approached Tenzin and pushed down on the lever on the phone, ending the call.
"John, what are you doing? That man had a possible lead on an Equalist group near the docks that may be holding Korra."
"Save it. Tarrlok's story stinks worse then a dead body in the desert, I'd bet money that he has Korra."
"Yakone, you won't get away with this," Aang said, struggling against the effects of bloodbending. From the side, Korra could hear grunting from Liam as he tried to force his finger down on the trigger.
"Republic City is mine, Avatar. I'll be back one day to claim it." With that, Yakone reached out and pried the firearm from Liam's grasp before knocking both of them out. When the vision resumed, Korra realized that Aang was chasing Yakone. With an air slice, he severed the ostrich horse from Yakone's carriage. With a crash, the carriage landed on its side and slid to a halt within the middle of an intersection. As Aang hovered on an air scooter, Yakone burst out of the door. Before he could react he was trapped in the grip of bloodbending again.
"This time I'm putting you to sleep permanently!" the bloodbender shouted as he began to twist the Avatar's limbs into painful angles. Just when he was about to break Aang's neck, the Avatar State kicked in, rendering the bloodbending useless as he encased Yakone in rock. Acting quickly, he used energybending to take away the bloodbender's abilities.
"It's over," Aang said before he plucked Liam's revolver from Yakone's belt.
With that, the vision abruptly ended and Korra found herself in the box yet again. She was filled with new understanding, realizing at last how Tarrlok had been able to use his abilities. But she was still trapped, and there was nothing she could do until someone arrived.
"John, these are some serious charges. Are you absolutely sure that you have enough proof that he took Korra?" Mako asked. John didn't answer as he led the small group toward Tarrlok, who was still being treated in the center of the scene. As he came to a halt, it looked as though his glare alone could set the councilman alight.
"I will ask you only once Tarrlok. Where is she?"
"Colonel. I thought I had you imprisoned," Tarrlok started. Instead of replying, John held his hand aloft. Instantly, Tarrlok was rendered immobile and lifted high into the air.
"As I've already told Tenzin. Equalists attacked last, Ahh!" Tarrlok cried out as John curled his fingers slightly, starting to crush the councilman.
"Tell that fairy tale to someone else Tarrlok, start answering and this won't be as painful." Mako stepped forward a bit.
"You sure this is the best way to get an answer? Crushing a councilman isn't exactly the best thing to have on a record," he said.
"I'll rip his arms and legs off if I have to! Where is Korra!" he shouted. Tarrlok's eyes suddenly went wide, and everyone in the room was rendered immobile. After landing on the ground, Tarrlok straightened himself up before he approached John.
"I'm at an inpass, Colonel. I wounder if I should kill you now or take you with me. You are an object of the Avatar's affection, and your life could be a tool for getting the Avatar to obey me. But your also a major thorn in my side."
"Kill me. That way she'll burn you to a crisp for me." Tarrlok clicked his tongue as if John was a small child.
"No, no. If I ever do kill you, I'll do it in front of her, make it easier to break her spirit."
"Tarrlok, I don't know what you have done with her, or where you've taken her. But I swear upon the blood of my father that you will find hell a vacation compared to what I will do to you if you hurt her." By now, all of them but John had passed out. John himself was struggling to keep from falling asleep as well. Mustering the last of his strength, the firebender managed to snap his fingers. Tarrlok was suddenly blinded and burned as a ball of fire erupted just in front of him. The councilman was thrown back, but he flung his hands up in an effort to freeze John in place. With the young man securely in his grasp again, the waterbender bared down on him until finally, his strength failed and John passed out.
As he came to, he felt as though he was being shaken like a rag doll.
"John, can you hear me?" came Bolin's voice.
"Knock it off bro, he's asleep, not deaf," said Mako from somewhere over his head. John's eyes snapped open to find Bolin sitting on top of him. A dark cloud filled sky flooded the background behind the earthbender. It didn't take him much to realize that they were on the back of Oogi.
"Get off of me." Bolin scrambled off of John's chest as a howl filled the night.
"That sounds like Naga!" shouted Mako as the sky bison began to dive toward the street below. John sat up and looked over the side of the saddle, spotting the polar bear dog with Korra lying across her back. Oogi had just barely touched down before John sprang over the side and sprinted to Korra, catching her as she began to fall from the saddle. She was shivering, her face was bruised in a few places, and a gash was exposed through her shirt on her side.
"She has hypothermia, I need to get her warm now," John said, picking Korra up bridal style and carrying her up the sky bison's tail into the saddle. As they began to the flight back to Air Temple Island, John rapped Korra in his coat before he began to use his bending in order to warm her, stealing himself into what he needed to in order to keep the young woman he loved alive.
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