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|The Divided Republic - Chapter 1|
The City of Dreams
It's the year 200 AG. Avatar Korra has traveled from her home in the Southern Water Tribe to her apartment in Republic City on special request from Chief of Police Mako, the successor of Lin Beifong. Well, special request might be a little bit of an overstatement, it was more of a friendly telephone call. She is looking forward to seeing her friends again. It has been a busy few years. Even though the Air Acolytes have been a great help, reviving an entire culture is not an easy task. People also haven't been too happy about the spirits living in the physical world. It took her the best part of the last 25 years to teach the ordinary people how to live alongside the spirits, that they can live together.
Korra thinks back to the time she first arrived in Republic City. How amazed she was by it all. Lin Beifong, who nearly threw her in jail. Tenzin, who nearly sent her all the way back home. Joining the Fire Ferrets. The Equalist Revolution. It seems so long ago. And there it is; the place her Avatar journey really began. She once again gazes upon the shining skyscrapers, the massive statue of Aang. As the airship begins its descent to the airport, she starts to pack her things, and finds out she forgot the yuans.
"Great," Korra thinks, "I guess I'll have to walk to my apartment." But when she has touched down, to her surprise, she sees Mako there. The two warmly greet each other, after which they walk to Mako's car.
"I didn't expect you here," says Korra.
-"I had a little spare time so I decided to pick you up. Where are you staying?"
"My apartment. I haven't been there in so long, it's almost pointless to still keep it."
- "I'm sure Pema would be happy to let you stay on Air Temple Island."
Korra sighs. Air Temple Island hasn't been the same since Tenzin passed away 5 years ago. Rebuilding the Air Nation really took a toll on him. Ever since, Jinora, Ikki, Meelo and Rohan have moved to the other four air temples, taking the position of head monk or sister, since they are the last of the original line of airbenders and are considered to be the great masters of the art. But she turns her attention to Mako again.
"Mako, why did you ask me to come here?"
-"In a word? Timing. As you are probably well aware, the 100th anniversary of the Battle at Wulong Forest is in two weeks. The city is planning a lot of festivities, and naturally the security fell on me."
"You want me as a glorified security guard? I have better things to do with my time."
-"No. Sozin's Comet is also coming back, and I'm worried."
"About what? The Fire Nation invading again? That was 200 years ago, and they were ruled by a mad man. Fire Lord Iroh is nothing like Fire Lord Sozin."
-"It's not the Fire Nation I'm worried about. It's the firebending triads here in the city."
By now, they had arrived at Korra's apartment building. A modern building, with all glass walls, 75 stories high and naturally, Korra lived in the penthouse on the top floor.
"Korra, I have to go. Can you drop by my office tomorrow morning?"
-"First thing. Good to see you again."
"Likewise. See you tomorrow!"
And with that, he drove off. When she got to the her apartment, she thought about what Mako said. If the firebending triads really were planning something big, waiting for the arrival of Sozin's Comet seems logical. If both the Agni Kais and the Infernos were planning an all-out turf war with each other, the whole city would burn. The alternative seemed even worse: those two together against the Triple Threats. With that, she decided to turn in for the night.
The next morning, she arrived at the police headquarters early, just as she agreed of with Mako. She walked into his office, which, unlike most offices in this building, was a very pleasant one to be in. Light and with high ceilings, it had a certain breeziness about it. Korra came straight to the point:
"So what is it that has you so worried about the triads? Turf war?"
-"No, it's bigger than that. There haven't been any reported skirmishes between the Agni Kai's and the Infernos in weeks. That's just not right. Those two are supposed to be in a conflict with each other every few days I fear they might want to seize control over the entire city."
"But how would they do that? They would have to take out hundreds of police officers and city officials. And even if they managed to do that, they would have to keep out the United Forces, which the police could call in if that were to happen."
-"That's the problem: I am not certain that is what's about to happen. I can't call in hundreds of soldiers on a hunch."
"But you are right. With Sozin's Comet on their side, the police don't stand a chance. They would be outmatched and outnumbered if both of them had the same bright idea and were working together."
-"That's why I called you here. With the Avatar on our side, we could tip the balance back in or favor. I mean, even the most hardened criminals will think twice about picking a fight with a fully realized Avatar."
"I see. I'm not even a security guard, I'm a babysitter."
-"Korra," Mako said, slightly annoyed, "can I count on your help or not?"
"Of course you can, but first, there is a party to organize. If you would be so kind to plan me into a speech at City Hall, that way, I'm close enough to help if anything goes wrong, and people will also know I am here."
As the days went by, Korra spent more of her time walking through the city, visiting old friends. She was glad to see Opal again. On special request from Tenzin, she and Bolin moved to Air Temple Island, where they had three children: an airbender, an earthbender and another airbender, much to their relief. The oldest, Yin, had just received her airbender tattoos at the age of fifteen. Opal and Pema were waiting for her when Korra stepped on the jetty. They greeted each other and quickly moved to the inside. It was just going to be them, as Bolin was in the Fire Nation on business.
"How's Bolin?" Korra asked.
-"Oh, you know, always busy," replied Opal. "Nuktuk Studios is really gobbling up a lot of his time, but he's very happy there. But why did you decide to come to Republic City again all of a sudden?"
"Mako asked. He wants to make sure the centennial jubilee of Wulong Forest goes smoothly."
-"Was there ever any cause for concern?"
"Well, it was typically smooth going, but with Sozin's Comet returning, he's worried. From what I heard in the city, rightfully so."
--"The firebending triads," said Pema.
"Correct. Do me a favor, will you? Don't leave the air temple. Between San and all the airbenders, this is probably the safest place for you in the city."
--"Hmm." Pema sounded worried. "That's what they thought 200 years ago, and guess what."
"Fair enough, but still. Harbor patrol units won't let anyone near the island in case riots break out, as always, but Mako already scheduled military police this time around. Just in case. So if things go wrong, you'll have plenty of firebenders on your side."
-"Better than nothing I guess, but Mako isn't that concerned for us. What's his other motive?"
"He wants every available officer in the city. That's why I'm here, and I'm asking you to stay on the island. Military police is nearly impossible to reason with, since they only listen to someone higher up the food chain."
-"Okay. But you have to tell the children can't celebrate this year."
After finishing her tea, Korra went outside to find the children by the giant yin yang.
"Korra!" They exclaimed, perfectly synchronized.
"Heads up!" yelled San, as he bent an earth disc at her. Korra caught it, and hurled it back at him. The airbending sisters were quick to follow in their brother's footsteps and both sent a gust of air her way. Korra propelled herself in the air with firebending, and pulled a ring of water around her which she used to deflect another one of San's earth discs. She uses the water freeze each of the children to the ground.
"Not fair!" yells Song.
"Hey, you're also going to face waterbenders in the real world, so get used to it," Korra dryly remarks, as she frees them again.
Yin proudly came up to Korra. "What do you think of them?" gesturing to her arrows.
"Very nice. You mastered airbending a lot faster than I did. I'm impressed. Now, I'm afraid I have some bad news for you. You can't go into the city with the 100th anniversary of Wulong Forest."
-"What? Why not?" cried the kids, again perfectly synchronized.
"Your uncle Mako told me he has a feeling something bad is going to happen. He doesn't want you in the city in case he's right. Neither do I, for that matter."
-"Mom will go with us, as she does every year. Then it will be fine," said Yin.
"No, I already talked with your mother about this. She agrees with me. If Mako says so, it is so. Look, I'm really sorry about this, but both of us really care about your safety. I know it sucks, but it's for this time only. Next year, everything will be back to normal.
Korra hated disappointing the children like this. The festival was always a lot of fun, she had to admit. They often went together, so she felt really bad she had to imprison them like this, but it would be for the best.
A week before the festival, Korra went to the astronomy tower, located on the mountains on the northern edge of the city limits. The head observer was a man called Tanaka. The best in the business, as they say.
-"Avatar Korra, how nice to welcome you to the observatory!"
"Thank you. Good to be here."
-"What brings you here?"
"Bingo. How's it doing?"
-"Straight and true, just as always. It will be here by the day of the festival, just like the calendar says it will. We have been monitoring it for some time now. People have been showing a lot of interest in it."
"What kind of people?"
-"Oh, you know, the Chief of Police has been up here, at least a dozen school classes, and a handful of others."
"Any of them firebenders?"
-"Not that I know of. But come to mention it, there was this one fellow who didn't really seem like the type for this kind of thing. You know, mobster type, tattoos on his neck, that kind of guy."
Korra's eyes went wide. "A tattoo of two dices?"
-"Yes, I think so. You know him?"
"What did you tell him?"
-"Nothing I haven't told anyone else. When the comet will be here, what time we can see it, that kind of stuff."
"Damn. Listen, I have to go. Thanks for telling me this!"
With that, Korra made for Mako's office as fast as she could. As she barged in, he and the borough lieutenants were in a meeting. Mako wasn't too happy about it.
-"Korra, you can't just barge in here like this. We are in a clos..."
But Korra interrupted him. "You were right. About the triads, something big happening, everything."
-"What? How can you be so sure?" He nodded to the lieutenants: "Give us a minute."
"I just came from the astronomy tower. Snake Eyes has been there and he knows everything. Precisely what time we can see the comet, how long it will be in the sky, he knows it all."
-"That doesn't prove it."
"Are you kidding me? It was your theory! Do you really expect me to believe in the major coincidence that the leader of one of the firebending triads also happens to be an amateur astronomer?"
"He asked about the comet, Mako. We need to prepare for everything you thought might happen. We need every bender in Republic City on our side, especially firebenders. If we're going up against even just one of the triads, we need every advantage we can get. You start drawing up battle strategies, I need to get in front of a microphone."
-"And say what? Firebenders of Republic City, this is your Avatar. Sozin's Comet is returning and the firebending triads are going to take over the city! Help me defend against them!" Mako mockingly said. "Korra, all we have is fairly strong circumstantial evidence, but not much more than that. One eye witness is placing a person of interest at a good place, but I can't lock down a city of three million people on that. If you start spilling this across the radio, there will be no telling what the consequences will be."
"But you were the one that called me here. You did so with a good reason, and the longer I have been here, the more I get the feeling you were right all along. Answer me this, and answer me honestly, or I am out of here. Did you call me here, just because you knew I wouldn't let this go and I would investigate it discreetly, without risking any leaks?"
-"Partly. I do trust you, more than I trust my own department. And yes, I trusted that you would start asking around, discreetly. But I mostly want you here, on the day the comet comes. I want you here to make sure everything goes smoothly."
Korra grimaced. "Well, at least I got that out of you. But why don't you listen to me, if I did exactly what you expected me to do?"
-"I do believe you, and my own gut feelings. But between those two and the triads, there is the festival. Republic City is the place to be that night."
"All that stuff is politics. Your job is not to worry about politics, but about the safety of the people."
-"That's what I do. I've already called in every officer and even have the military police on stand-by. I can't do anything else. My hands are tied."
"Forget it. I'll do it myself."
-"Korra, don't do anything stupid!" But before he could finish, she walked out the door.
Korra was properly pissed. Not only did one of her oldest friends blatantly lie to her, he used her, which was even worse. She knew he was right. She faced a choice: go behind Mako's back, and take matters into her own hands, and risk losing his trust and friendship, or try to do it the official way, and risk losing countless lives. Back at her apartment, she had decided. Korra picked up a telephone and dialed.
"Opal? I need a favor. I need to know where Bolin is staying."
For the collective works of the author, go here.