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|And the Sky Ran Red|
And the Sky Ran Red
Korra was worried sick - literally. The comet would be arriving tomorrow evening and the Imperial Firebenders weren't here yet. She was sweating bullets, had a massive headache, eaten next to nothing, and barely slept for three days. She had gone down to the acupuncturist about three blocks away, but it didn't help. She was feeling every bit as tense as she was before she went there.
The telephone rang. Korra answered, but didn't recognize the voice.
-"Am I speaking to Avatar Korra?" the man on the other side asked.
"Yes, this is her. Who is this?"
-"My name is Valka, commander of the United Forces, 18th division. We have some business to discuss. A 'care package' has arrived for you, and I'm the one they left it with."
This sounded promising, and Korra rose up out of her seat.
"What do you mean by 'care package'?"
-"It's best we don't discuss that over the telephone. How quickly can you make it down to Pier 7?"
"15 minutes, maybe a little bit more."
-"Alright. Until then."
He hung up and Korra sighed. Pier 7 was all the way across the city, so she decided to take her glider there. She had headwind, so it took a little bit longer than she wanted, or could reasonably expect.
When she landed at the base of the pier, a man in uniform was waiting for her. He looked like he was in his mid-forties, and had a slender build. His eyes were bright blue, so Korra kind of assumed he was a waterbender, though anything would be possible.
"General Valka, I presume?"
-"Correct. Nice to finally meet you, Avatar Korra."
"Likewise. You received something on my behalf?"
-"Yes. Fire Lord Iroh warned me not to discuss anything distinct about the contents of the package over the telephone. You never know who's listening."
"Words to live by."
-"I must say, I've worked either under or with Fire Lord Iroh for most of my life, but this does not seem like him at all. He holds the president of the Republic in high regard, and so do I."
"As you should. He is your commander in chief, after all."
-"So why so clandestine? 72 men, no uniforms, and the Fire Lord asking me to secretly arrange this pier for them to stay?"
"We've discussed this very thoroughly and came to the conclusion it would be better if President Gaia didn't know about this. Did Iroh share the reason he sent these men here with you?"
-"No, he did not."
"I can only assume he didn't tell you because you can deny the whole thing and walk away without jeopardizing your career."
-"Could you tell me a little but? I am curious."
"Let's just say they are here to fight fire with fire."
-"Hmm, sounds dangerous."
"Not your style, general?"
-"I prefer to fight fire with water."
"Aha! I knew you were a waterbender. Would you say you are good?"
-"I've been a soldier my entire life. I can handle sticky situations. When you're stuck in the middle of the Si Wong Desert and Sandbender Tribes want your head and those of the rest of your unit, you learn to improvise. Little water makes a bender resourceful."
"Not bad. If you are not too busy, I'd like to invite you to City Hall Square, tomorrow evening at 8. I'll be giving a speech there. You should come and listen."
-"I'll be there."
By now, they had reached the end of the pier, and the entrance was just a few steps from them.
"General, thank you, for all of your effort."
-"Anytime. Just make it good."
With that, he turned around, and walked away. Korra liked him. A man who plays by the rules, but not afraid to bend them a little if that's what's required. She went inside, and what she saw, got her very excited. 72 men was quite a lot, when they all stood together like this. She heard Captain Mori shout: "Atten-tion!" and they all stood up, perfectly straight backs and saluted Korra. They were uniformly huge, and looked like the perfect soldiers.
"As you were, gentlemen. Captain Mori, good to see you again. I was getting worried the Fire Lord wouldn't come through."
Mori smiled. "He always comes through. We had to wait for Valka to make the necessary arrangements for us, and we had to find a way into the city without attracting any attention. It could either be quick or silent, both wasn't an option."
"Silent it is, good call. But that's water under the bridge. Is everything ready for tomorrow evening?"
-"Yes. I have divided my men up into groups of six, with two groups at City Hall, which I will be joining. The rest will disperse throughout the city at places close to the triads' headquarters. If anything goes wrong, we'll be right there."
Reassured by Mori's pragmatic approach, she went home again with a good feeling. Now she had to worry about writing her speech. Over the past week, she tried to write it, but her thoughts kept going to the very distinct absence of the Imperial Firebenders. Now though, it should be a piece of cake. "Citizens of Republic City..."
The next day, Korra decided to fly around the city for a little bit. She wanted to see if anyone was acting out of the ordinary. There was nothing. The triads kept quiet, the weather was beautiful and the people were friendly. After all, it was practically Avatar Aang they were celebrating. Even though their connection had been severed nearly thirty years ago, she felt close to him. More so then she ever did before.
As the afternoon came to an end, Korra went to City Hall. After Korra had dealt with the spirit vines, the original building was deemed structurally unsound, and was torn down. It had been replaced with a building with a new face. It protruded further outward onto the square, with a massive facade. It was a huge glass wall, three stories high, supported by four pillars, one decorated by each nation. There was a glass dome on the roof, surrounded by a publicly accessible terrace. The square was packed with spectators. There was a massive stage, with an elevated platform on which there was a pulpit, the metaphorical soapbox. On the lower stage, there was an orchestra, consisting of at least 150 men.
When Korra went inside, She stopped for a moment to appreciate the sheer beauty of the lobby. Even though it had been turned into the backstage area, Korra always thought this place had been an marvel of architecture: one, long, half-round reception desk against the back wall, the triangular pieces of cloth suspended from the ceiling, the presidential seal on the left wall, and the crest of the United Republic on the right. She soon spotted President Gaia, Lord Zuko, Commander Valka, and other officials. Good to know the right people had come to the right place.
After making pleasant small talk with the men, they went outside, to wait in front of the orchestra. In the gathered crowd, she spotted captain Mori and a handful of his men. The president made the first speech, and after he spoke, there was a musical intermezzo. Korra was up next. It had gone dark. Sozin's Comet couldn't be far away.
"It's been a while since I stood in front of a crowd. Nevertheless, I'm glad to be here. It's hard to imagine that 100 years ago, not too far from here, the Fire Nation threatened to destroy the entire world. If it hadn't been for Avatar Aang and his friends, they would have succeeded. Now though, the Fire Nation is out closest ally. We should see this day not as one to remind us how close we came to the edge, but how we since forged a strong friendship. Friendship is what stopped the Fire Nation, and is what shaped the world into what it now is. The world healed, and we healed with it. Most of the people who remember the war have passed, but behind me stands the last veteran: Lord Zuko. He is the last man still alive who actively fought in the war, and I am very grateful to be able to call him my friend. He was one of Avatar Aang's closest friends, and he has been a great guide for me as well."
Korra saw that, in the distance, the sky became brighter.
"Sozin's Comet is arriving. Let us enjoy this spectacle of nature, and let us enjoy the festival. Good night!"
The crowd applauded, as Korra left the stage. She went to Mako.
"Get ready. This is it."
Mako grabbed his radio. "All units, prepare yourselves. If anything is going to happen, it will be happening soon."
Korra grabbed her glider and flew up to the terrace. As she stood there, she suddenly spotted an unmistakable face. Or rather, what was attached. Yin. She promptly flew down and grabbed her by the arm.
"Yin, what are you doing here?! I told you to stay on Air Temple Island!"
As Korra looked around, she also saw San and Song. Both Yin and Song had their gliders with them. That's how they got off of the island. "You three are in a world of trouble. Come with me. Now."
-"No." Yin said. "You're not our mother. I'm not a little girl, I'm an airbending master. I can take care of myself."
"Yin, this is serious. Something very bad is about to happen, and I want you safe." She looked for Mako, and he wasn't far away. "Mako, over here!"
Mako heard her, and soon found them.
"Call Bolin and Opal. Tell them they can stop ripping Air Temple Island apart, their children are here with me."
Mako did just that, and they'd soon be on their way, and then Korra made a good point: "We can't leave them out here in the open."
-"We'll take them backstage. City Hall is the most secure location in Republic City right now, save for maybe Air Temple Island. Bolin and Opal should be here in about ten minutes. More than enough time for us to get to the office of the president."
"What?" Korra asked, while she chuckled. "Why there?"
-"It's the easiest place to find us. It's marked everywhere and publicly accessible when not in use."
"Whatever you say, chief."
As they went inside, they ran into Commander Valka.
-"Avatar Korra, how nice to see you again. Who's this?" Valka asked, as he pointed to Yin, San and Song.
"Not mine." Korra responded brusquely. She was not in the mood for this.
Mako gave her a disapproving look, and took over. "These are the children of my brother. They are not supposed to be here, and we will be waiting for them to arrive from Air Temple Island inside."
-"Then I have some bad news for you: you cannot go in, unless you have a military escort."
Now, Mako looked completely baffled. "Sir, I'll have you know that I am the Chief of Police of Republic City, not some rookie patrol officer."
-"Be that as it may, you're not military, you're not getting in. I'll escort you."
Great. Korra was definitely not in the mood for this.
When they finally arrived in the president's office, they bore witness to an amazing spectacle. They saw the first light of Sozin's Comet, as the sky ran red.
Bolin and Opal soon arrived, and it was clear to Korra they didn't know how to feel. On one hand, they were very relieved their children were safe. On the other, they were furious they blatantly ignored their orders. An awkward silence fell.
Bolin eventually broke it. "Yin... Just go to the roof, all three of you, and get on Alca," he said with a disappointed sigh.
The children started moving to the door, but before they could get there, one of the president's guards stepped in, and said: "Nobody in or out of this office. We're under attack!"
President Gaia came in, surrounded by a small army of guards and followed by Zuko.
Korra went in his direction. "Zuko, what's going on?"
-"Firebenders tried to kill the president. They already killed three of his guards. Captain Mori is guarding the building, but I don't know how much longer he can hold it."
They turned around when they heard the first guard swearing loudly. "Just get the damn thing here!" He turned his attention to presumably his first lieutenant. "The airship can't be here until at least fifteen minutes from now. Do you have any suggestions?"
The lieutenant visibly doubted. "There is a sky bison on the roof, we might be able to get away on that."
Opal immediately objected. "You can't just take my bison! I am flying my children out of here on him!"
-"Yes I can, I hereby confiscate it in the name of the United Republic. When the president is safe, the animal will revert back to you and you will be compensated for your trouble."
Opal was stunned, and Bolin blocked the door. "Trouble? These are my children you are talking about!"
-"Sir, move away from the door, or I will use force to do so."
"Captain, stop." President Gaia interrupted them. "Sir, there is nothing we gain by fighting each other. The captain has his orders, and he will follow them. We take your children with us, and you remain here until this all blows over."
Bolin looked at Opal, who had a questioning look on her face, but ultimately nodded. He stepped aside.
"Don't worry sir, they'll be safe with us. Mrs. Beifong, we'll seek refuge on Air Temple Island, the safest haven in the city right now."
"Okay. We can give them a good fight for a while."
As the president, his men and Yin, San and Yong went up, Korra and the team went down, preparing to make a stand in the lobby.
- The more eagle eyed reader will have noticed I largely based the design of the new city hall on the Reichstag in Berlin. Or what I remember from it anyway, it's been a while since I've been there.
For the collective works of the author, go here.