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Book 3: Doorways
August 3rd, 2014
John and Korra learn of the United Forces plan for aiding the South. John discovers the truth about the convergence.
The small village of Wong was barely even able to be considered a village at all. It sat on the crossroads of two rather large routes near the Earth Kingdom/United Republic boarder. Consisting of a small general store, telegraph office, church, a few homes, and a gas station, it was more of a way station then a village. For miles in all directions, the dusty arid grasslands surrounded the village.
John sat on the front porch of the general store in an old wooden chair. His uniform was in tatters, his boots were falling apart, and his thighs were sore from several hours of riding. Beside him sat a spool that had been used to wire the telegraph line to the village sometime ago, now turned on its side for use as a makeshift table. His .45 automatic and a warm bottle of sake were the only things that sat on top of the spool as he waited for his men to arrive.
He had nearly given the telegrapher a heart attack when he burst into the office that morning, demanding to send a message to General Iroh. Over a month had passed since he and Korra had left Republic City, even though to them it had only been a few days. His message had only read: "We're alive. In Wong with valuable intel. Send transportation."
Now the only thing he could do was wait. His sour mood and itchy trigger finger had all but scarred the townspeople away. Currently, he was sitting with his feet propped up and reading through his father's journal, scouring for any kind of information that had value. The approaching sound of footsteps on wooden planks caused his ears to perk up, and his mood too sour even more.
"Unless it's Sake or something else to drink you best get," he said without looking up.
"What about food?" Korra's voice snapped John's attention away from the pages of the book for the first time in hours. Korra was standing a short distance away, holding two bowls of rice in her hands. He smiled as he motioned for her to approach, happily accepting his food.
"So what have you found out?" she asked as she sat on the other side of the spool from him.
"There's so much information in here that it's practically useless. Vague references to creatures from before the beginning of Creation, Artifacts, information on everything we could possibly want to know about except the thing we need information on," he replied with frustration before he threw the book down and took up his bowl.
Korra glanced sideways at him in a worried manner. As Harmonic Convergence drew closer, he had become more and more bitter, if not openly hostile. The stress of not knowing what was going on bore down upon his shoulders as much as it did hers. Silently, she feared that he would do something rash or maybe even kill someone.
The sound of motorcycles caused both of them to look up from their food. Seven bikes, riding in three sets of pairs with one leader appeared to their right on the edge of town. They rode into the heart of Wong, coming to a halt in the middle of the street in a cloud of dust.
"Well, Well, Well. What have we here? A pair of newcomers?" It was a woman, city raised by the sound of her accent. As the dust cloud began to clear, it was revealed that she was standing in the middle of a half circle formed by the bikes, all of them facing John and Korra.
"We just got into town this morning," Korra said as she eyed the group wearily. Beside her, John continued to eat as if nothing had happened. The leader was dressed brown trousers and white shirt with a black vest. On her forehead rested a pair of goggles for riding. What had Korra concerned was the United Forces pistol that was jammed into the waistband of her pants.
"Well since you're new in town I'll give you a deal. One thousand yuan for your protection against the Boarder Riders."
"One thousand yuan?!"
"That's my military discount, sweetheart. Unless of course you wish to submit a complaint," she said, her hand going to the revolver.
"You've got to be crazy if you think we've got a thousand yuan!" Korra said as she sprung to her feet. The woman slowly drew the weapon and held it aloft, showing it off for all to see before she slowly began to walk forward.
"You don't know what this, do you sweet lips? This is the MAS revolver, one of the most powerful weapons in the world. Only troopers in the United Forces are permitted to have them, although I don't see one on your boyfriend over here. So here's how this is gonna go, you're gonna hand over all the money you have and keep handing it over until you're debt of one thousand yuan is paid off. If not, there is always the other way," she said as she thumbed the hammer.
"Let's try that other way," John said before raising his pistol and firing three quick shots. The first bullet tore the revolver out of the woman's hand, sending it flying. But the second and third ripped through her chest, knocking her backwards off of the porch and into the dirt. The horses let out an unpleasant whine, the causing the only noise besides the fading echo of the shots. Lowering his feet and standing slowly, John moved his gun from one person to the next, taking the time to insure that each and every one of them were looking at the dark hole of the barrel.
After a moment, he knelt next to the woman while keeping the pistol training on the riders. Looking down, he could see that she was bleeding profusely from her wounds. Blood leaked from the corner of her mouth as she coughed and struggled to breathe.
"Corporal Lin Shilong, it's been a while hasn't it Corporal. You've looked better," he said. Lin coughed again and took a raged breath.
"Oh come on Corporal, you don't remember your own Captain? I'm the one who taught you how to use this," he said as he held up the revolver. Lin's eyes bugged out of her head with recognition.
"You know the penalty for desertion, Corporal," John said, his voice turning serious. Lin coughed again, now drowning in her own blood.
"Look's like I'm payin' it Captain Rider," she croaked before the life left her eyes and her last breath escaped her lips. At that moment, a fog horn sounded, causing everyone to look up. A pair of black airships were descending upon the village.
"Alright everyone listen up! Way I see it you've got two options. Option One: you all stay put and the Republic tries and puts you in front of a firing squad for desertion. Or there is Option Two: you gun your little bikes and ride as fast as you can back across the boarder and never come back. Which will it be?" The riders glanced at each other before speeding out of the village, riding east toward the Earth Kingdom Boarder.
Dust flew through the air as the lead airship descended upon the street. John held aloft his left hand to block some of the airborne dirt from his eyes as he returned his pistol to its holster. After a moment, the hatch on the side of the airship opened, reviling Carter standing proud and tall in a new uniform.
"John, Korra, nice to see you're alive," he said as he marched forward with his hand out to shake John's. He quickly stumbled back though once he got within touching distance of John.
"Bloody hell you smell like a distillery! Where have you two been?" he said, shooting an extra glance toward the horses.
"It's a long story," John muttered with exhaustion. Carter remained silent as he weighted the options in his head.
"Fine. Let's get everything loaded up. General Iroh is mustering the fleet near the Southern Isles," he said.
"What the hell is going on?"
"President Raiko approved plans for an Invasion of the Southern Water Tribe. Korra is gonna get her wish, the United Republic will help the Rebels."
The United Forces First and Second Divisions were clustered just off a small barren island. The fleet was made up of a cluster of new battleships, cruisers, troop transports, and massive airships. Biplanes flew patrols over the fleet in groups of four, constantly circling and being on the lookout for a threat.
At the heart of the fleet, the Isabella sailed proud and tall, standing out from the other ships in the fleet. Above the ship, an airship that was even larger than the battleship below it hovered. It was here that John and Korra walked to a meeting with General Iroh. Both of them had showered and changed into new clothes, replacing the rags they had been wearing beforehand.
"Ah, Captain Rider, Avatar Korra, how nice of you to join us," General Iroh said as they stepped into a planning room.
"It's good to be back General." Iroh motioned them over to the table. Sitting on the top of the table was a map which showed the entirety of the South Pole. Various colored lines and arrows indicated troop and ship movements, a majority of which focused onto the Southern Port.
"As I'm sure Commander Reynolds as informed you, the President gave approval for an intervention in the Southern Water Tribe via military means," Iroh started.
"You mean an Invasion," said an officer standing to the side of the map. Iroh ignored this as he began to point to various parts of the map.
"The First and Second Divisions will sail within a hundred miles of the Northern Blockade, at which point our planes will launch and lay waste to the enemy fleet and any other military threats in the harbor and near the coast line."
"Are you sure that the biplanes have the ability to pull off this task? The Northern Fleet is resilient and they have nothing but waterbenders," Korra said.
"If the Battle of Republic City proved anything, it's that a fleet of large slow moving warships stands little chance against aircraft without significant Anti Air, it's even worse when it's bottled up in a harbor with no room to maneuver. Now once the fleet is knocked out of action, our airships will move in and begin landing our vanguard. Hopefully they'll have taken enough ground for the main landing force to hit the beaches without worry."
"Excuse me sir, but what should we do about the enemy mecha tanks? Unless I'm mistaken, the Northern Armor was upgraded so that it's impervious to rifle fire," John said.
"Ms. Sato has provided us with a solution to this problem Captain Rider. One which I will discuss with you when this briefing is over. Now are there anymore questions before we continue?" Asami, who had been standing behind the General, spoke up.
"Why did you assemble a fleet this large of warships if the main attack is with air power?" she asked.
"Aerial reconnaissance of the Port has shown that these hills around the city outskirts were recently fortified with a line a bunkers. The fleet will move in, finish off any surviving units of the enemy fleet, and then bombard these fortifications while the main ground assault occurs. Hopefully the withering firepower will subdue the bunkers enough for our ground troops to establish a foothold. Now, once these objectives have been secured, our forces will drive inland toward a secondary stronghold surrounding the South Pole. This is where things start to get complicated, Commander Reynolds you have the floor."
"Thank you sir. Three days ago, a recon plane spotted this near the Whaletail Fallout Zone," Carter said as he sat a black and white photo down on top of the map. It depicted a single airship surrounded by a small flight of escort biplanes.
"Seventeen hours ago, another recon plane and a patrol craft operating twenty miles off the Southern Water Tribe Coast spotted this same flight of craft entering Southern Airspace. Along with this on the side of the airship." He sat another picture down, this one appearing to have been blown up so that some lettering on the side of the airship could be read. The top line contained the usual Chinese lettering, but the second line was written in English.
"Columbia," John breathed.
"The fighter escort and English lettering present indicate that Ethan Alexander, Chief Unalaq's top adviser, is on board. Alexander is a high priority target, the information he gives to Unalaq could very easily turn this war against us. Not only this but the presence a Northern Air Force is a threat to any operations both on the ground and at sea. Immediately after the Port is secured, two flights of biplanes led by myself and Captain Segun will locate and shoot down this force, thereby paving the way to the Pole and Unalaq himself."
John remained quiet as he thought to himself, running over all this information in his head. But one thing stood out in his mind, the name of the Captain that would be accompanying Carter. It couldn't be...
"John, do you have a minute?" John blinked and jumped, having been unaware of Iroh approaching him.
"Of course sir." Iroh motioned over his shoulder for him to follow, leading him out of the room and down a metal corridor.
"I'm surprised you didn't speak up more during the briefing, I was sure that you would have an argument against some part of the plan," he said.
"I'm a soldier sir, it's not my job to question my superior's orders."
"What you are is our trump card. Both you and Carter. You have knowledge and understanding of technology and tactics that we are just barely beginning to grasp. Your opinion, no matter how negative, has value." John remained silent, leaving only the clatter of boots on metal to fill the awkwardness.
After a short time, Iroh opened a hatchway and motioned for him too step inside. He barely time to register the words Top Secret Eyes Only scrawled out in Chinese before the door slammed shut.
"The point you made in the room was an interesting one, and a thorn in our side. Armor improvements have all but made our new weapons useless against the mecha tanks. However, I believe that Asami has the answer," Iroh said before he activated the lights. They were standing in a large hanger like room, facing a massive hunk of metal that vaguely resembled a diving suit.
"Now what in the hell is this?"
"The Mecha Tank Mark II. Titanium alloy armor and drill, cold resistant fuel, bipedal motor system, and enough punching power to tear a Mark I clean in half with one blow," Asami said, appearing next to the two men. John let out a whistle.
"You sure pulled out the stops for this one Asami. Who's the suicidal nut job you got piloting this thing?" he asked.
"That would be you," Iroh said as if he was giving the time. John froze, clenched his teeth, and returned his attention to Asami.
"Has it been tested yet?"
"Not in a combat situation. This one is codenamed Alpha." John cocked his eyebrow.
"Alpha? You guys used a Greek letter to name it?" Asami shrugged in response.
"I don't know what Greek is, but if it's from your world then it suits you. Everything is connected as the old saying goes." For him, it all suddenly clicked with those words.
"Asami, you're a genus!" he said before he ran out of the room, leaving a shocked Iroh and Asami to glance at each other in confusion. John ran through the corridors, left, right, even backtracking once before he finally found Korra sitting in the mess hall.
"I've figured it out," he said as he sat down across from her.
"The information we needed. Why Alexander and Unalaq are so interested in the Gates."
"Harmonic Convergence is more then just a spiritual gathering, it opens every single Gate, leaves the boundaries between worlds non existent. The entirety of creation is going to be at risk," he said, opening his father's journal to prove what he was saying.
"At risk how?"
"If they destroy those Trees, they don't just sink this world into the Spirit World, they take all of the other eleven with it. Every single human world will be under attack by spirits with no way to defend themselves."
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