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|The Best Laid Plans|
Chapter 11: The Best Laid Plans
Sora sat in her cell, attempting to come up with a viable escape plan, but the proper one eluded her. She did have one idea.
An elephant-rat skittered across the floor in front of her, and she stretched out her hand. The rodent stopped dead in its tracks, now under her control.
Her eyes took on the blood-red hue once more, but quickly regained their original sky blue color when she released the animal. Her heart beat like a drum; the power was exhilarating. But...
"It's not worth the cost..." She muttered, not entirely convinced.
Appa sped toward the United Republic, but both the Avatar and his friend knew that it would be two more days, at least. That was not good enough.
"But what can I do?" He asked. "I don't want to cause you any more pain."
The Sky Bison groaned long and loud, and it brought tears to Aang's eyes.
"No, you will not sacrifice yourself for them. We'll meet them together, buddy; we have to."
The Avatar's eyes widened; he knew that voice well. "Roku?"
"Do not blame yourself for this. You cannot fight fate."
Aang snorted. "I just wish fate was kinder...or maybe the spirits."
The blue, ethereal form of his mentor sat beside him in Appa's saddle. "I doubt that the spirits will be much help." He said sourly. "Susanowo even made a wager with Usha as to whether or not her vision will come to pass."
The Avatar's narrowed. "I take it that Susanowo knows, then, the contents of her vision?" Damn! I should've asked different questions!
Roku nodded. "Indeed he does. And he wagered some Spirit World territory on the belief that it will not come to pass."
The Airbender looked away. "Then maybe there is hope after all...I mean...seeing that I can't be there to protect them. Unless a miracle happens, they'll have to face this without me."
"You are so certain that it is close?" Roku asked.
"I can feel it in my gut, Roku, and there is nothing I can do. I don't even know what will occur." He stared at the sky. "Maybe that's what I hate the most about all this..."
The cell door creaked open, and Kiryu Iran grinned as he stepped out of his confinement unhindered. The "guard" on duty took to one knee as the Equalist leader changed out of his prison fatigues and into a black tunic with ebony armor plating and a black cape with an ornate bronze trim. The cloak hung down as he took the spear that had been handed to him. The final piece of his ensemble came in the form of a white mask that had a slit visor and covered the upper half of his face.
"It is time that we make our mark."
The anti-bender smiled. "Of course, sir. What is it you would have me—urk!" Her exclamation followed as Tao's metal chain pierced her heart.
"You aren't going anywhere, Iran. I'll make sure of—."
The Equalist waved him off. "I'm sure you'll try, but it shall only result in your death."
Tao said nothing before whipping his chain forward with blinding speed. Kiryu Iran snorted contemptuously and weaved around the incredibly linear strike, spinning his spear and cutting through the links in the chain. The fact that his weapon had just been cut in half did not stop Tao; he simply spun forward and brought his chain down again. Iran responded by sidestepping, allowing the chain to smack the metal floor. He twisted and shoved his spear forward, intent on skewering the officer, but Tao pushed the weapon off to the side, moving in with his metal gloves and forgoing his chain.
The Equalist leader was expressionless as he caught the other man's wrist, and he maintained that nonchalance as he thrust a web-handed strike into Tao's throat, lifting him off of his feet in the process. Suspended in midair by his throat, the Metalbender could only gasp and claw at his opponent.
"You have been nothing but a nuisance, Officer Tao; I'll be sure to give Gareth your regards." The Metalbender's eyes widened as Kiryu Iran stabbed him through the heart.
The former Governor-General shook his head as the body dropped to the floor. "Is this all that you have for me, Chief Bei Fong? I am unimpressed."
He heard the thwip of an arrow being released and lurched instinctively, allowing the arrow to graze his jaw. Three more projectiles flew in quick succession from the bow as Kiryu Iran spun around to meet his foe.
Longshot stood with yet another arrow knocked; he held an expression of grim determination.
"Stand aside; I have no desire to harm a fellow non-bender."
The archer exhaled and quickly launched the arrow at Iran, who spun his spear in a circle to deflect it. "So be it."
The anti-bender lunged forward before he could get another arrow in place, so Longshot settled for whipping his bow around to strike at his opponent. Unfortunately, Kiryu Iran was faster, and the archer found himself gasping for breath after taking a particularly nasty punch to his stomach.
"I had hoped that it would not come to this, but it appears we can reach no peaceful resolution." He gripped Longshot's face and held him high. "Don't worry; I'm not going to kill you." He slammed the officer's head into the metal wall and watched as he slipped into unconsciousness.
Sora sat calmly in her cell, well, outwardly calm, awaiting the guard's arrival. Part of her felt guilty for what she was about to do, and the other part was terrified.
I just have to maintain control...it can't be that hard. Can it? She remembered the look of abject horror on Chikyuu's face and shook her head. This would be rough. I just...I have to know my limits...
The creaking of the cell door caused her head to shoot up. The Waterbender's knowledge of her own limits would come sooner than planned.
"Dinnertime, bender scum." The Equalist said as he tossed the plate of food in front of her. "You'll notice that there's no water, just lychee juice. Good luck tryin' to escape with that."
She glared at him. "I won't need it; I have you." The Waterbender's eyes turned blood red and her skin began to drain of color as she held her hand out. "Now unlock my cage."
"What are you—hel—!"
She closed her hand, constricting his larynx. "Be silent!" He was beginning to become a nuisance, maybe if she... No! I can't...gotta stay in control...
The anti-bender's hand didn't even shake as he was forced to unlock the cell door. He didn't make a move as Sora simply walked out of her cell. And he didn't struggle when she had him walk into the holding area and lock the door behind him. He was in her complete control.
"I could kill you; I have the power." She winced. Do I really feel this way? "But..." Her voice became slightly childlike. "I-I won't."
The whipping sound of a bola caught her attention, and Sora used her knowledge of ebb and flow to dodge the projectile, simultaneously ensnaring the attacker. She smirked; they had no idea how powerful she was.
The Avatar's daughter clenched her fingers together, causing the man before her to let out a gurgled cry. "Please! Oh spirits, mercy!"
Sora was angry; he had the gall to ask her for that! "Mercy? Why should I do that?" Warning bells were going off in the back of her mind. Something was not right.
I was supposed to remember something...what was it?
"Please...I have a family..." The Equalist croaked.
"Family..."Sora repeated dazedly. "You have...family?" What am I doing? Spirits, no! She immediately released the man, and he passed out from the pain.
The Bloodbender's pale hands were shaking as she brought them into view. "Just until I get out of here..."
"This is insane, Tenzin! It's also dangerous!" Kyani cried. "Did I mention yet that it's insane!?" He turned to Pema. "Back me up, here."
She shrugged. "I've seen you two in action. Between the three of us, we should be able to get in and get out with Sora relatively easily."
Tenzin grinned. "See? Told ya."
Kyani rolled his eyes. "Thanks, Pema. Have you both forgotten the plan? The Order of the White Lotus will mount a rescue mission when my dad gets here!"
The Airbender shook his head. "Too long. I'm going after my sister; I hope you'll both join me."
Pema nodded. "I'm in; we can finally resolve this."
Kyani shook his head. "I have a feeling that we'll all regret this..." He turned. "I'm going to get my shotos. We can't be too careful."
The cell area was behind him, but Kiryu Iran's greatest challenge lay just ahead. His cape fluttered behind him as the outside air blew through the doorway, the doorway that was blocked by two final challengers.
"Gareth, of course you are here to greet me." He said resignedly. "You and your..." He glanced at the female Earthbender. "...Earthbending bride..."
The Firebender's eyes narrowed. "You do not deserve to even address her; you talk to me, Equalist."
Iran readied his spear. "I'd prefer to skip to the inevitable, thank you."
Gareth held out his arm and snapped his fingers while Shira immersed herself in the earth below, the spark going high while the Earthbender went low. Kiryu Iran responded to both attacks by kicking off with his right foot in order to lunge left. As Shira came up to intercept, he jumped pressing one foot against her face while using the other to kick off of her left shoulder, completing the maneuver with a flip.
Gareth decided to keep his Firebending close. I don't want to hurt Shira... He punched out a quick fireball, but the anti-bender simply ducked around it and came within striking distance. When the Firebender punched forward, Iran slid in and struck him with the blunt end of his spear, sticking it into the ground on the follow-up and abandoning it for a further assault.
That assault began with the Equalist inside Gareth's defenses, delivering three quick blows to the Firebender's midsection. When Gareth kicked up with his left foot and let loose a fire blast, Iran caught his leg with his right one and wrapped it around, pushing Gareth off balance. The anti-bender took advantage of the temporary opening and delivered two more strikes to his kidney.
"Get away from him!" Shira lunged at him, claws on her earth gauntlets extended, but Kiryu Iran didn't even have to turn around. He instead trapped both of her arms as she brought them in and threw a backwards head-butt.
Gareth rushed forward as his wife crumpled to the ground, unconscious. Unfortunately, without his Firebending, he was outmatched, and Kiryu Iran intercepted his charge and hip-tossed him. The Firebender only felt rage as darkness covered his vision.
The Equalist leader smirked and pulled his spear out of the ground as two of his men dropped down from the roof and bowed. "So it begins..."
"So you expect us to believe that Kiryu Iran kept a large Equalist base under City Hall without anyone ever finding out about it?"
Pema shook her head. "No, Kyani, Chief Bei Fong probably knew. But, as we both know, she needed solid evidence."
The young swordsman slapped his palm on his forehead. "Then why would they bring Sora there?! It makes no sense!"
"Well what do you suggest then, Mr. Know-It-All?" Pema put her hands on her hips. "Do you know of any other hidden Equalist bases?"
Kyani narrowed his eyes, and Pema rolled hers. "I thought so..."
"Look, guys..." Tenzin began. "We don't have a lot to go on, so let's just use the leads we have."
A smile worked its way to the corners of Kyani's mouth. "Who knew that it would take a kidnapping to make you mature, Tenzin?"
"Mature? You can't be talking about my brother!" Sora walked up beside them.
"Sora!" Tenzin wrapped his arms around his sister. "Wait...how did you—?" He noticed several things that were...off. She was paler than normal, and her eyes... "You've been..." His voice dropped to a whisper. "...Bloodbending again?"
She pursed her lips. "Later..." Her reply was also a whisper.
"Wow, Tenzin, I didn't know you cared so much." Kyani smirked, he and Pema oblivious to the exchange between twins.
"Yeah, yeah..." The Airbender waved him off.
Pema grinned. "Well, this saves us the trouble of tracking you down, Sora. So, how'd you escape?"
"Please, I have a family!" The pleading voice rang in her head, and the Waterbender winced. "I guess...I guess they just couldn't hold me as well as they thought."
Tenzin smiled. "That sounds about—."
He was cut short as a dozen Equalists surrounded them, dropping from the rooftops and emerging from the shadows. Before any of them could react, the chi-blockers subdued the teens, effectively leaving them at the mercy of the man who soon came before them.
"Well, if it isn't the children of the Avatar! Including this little Waterbender who shouldn't have been able to escape." Solf Koruhagi sneered as he glanced over his captives. "We're going to have so much fun!"
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