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|Fire and Blood|
Fire and Blood
They were ready. Korra and Bolin had dug a big hole and broke a water main, creating a makeshift water supply for Korra and Commander Valka. They hadn't seen Alca leave yet, which was worrisome. Behind the reception they had created a stone wall, out of sight, which might buy them a few precious extra seconds. Suddenly, Mako's radio started going haywire with messages.
"Chief, we're getting hammered out here!"
"We're under attack! Firebenders have us surrounded!"
Mako responded in kind: "All units, use of lethal force is permitted. We will hold this city. If your attackers end up dying in the process, so be it."
Korra was between him and captain Mori. "Captain, call them in. The police needs help. At least a dozen per building."
Mori started giving orders to his men over the radio, when Mako asked the inevitable: "Korra, who is this guy?"
"He's... the captain of the Imperial Firebenders. I got six dozen on loan from Fire Lord Iroh for precisely this contingency," she said, with a hint of guilt on her face.
-"You what?! You march half a fucking battalion into my city and don't even tell me about it?!"
"Can we not have this discussion now? Tomorrow, I'm all yours to be yelled at, but now we have bigger things on our mind!"
She hadn't even finished or a massive fireball broke down the front door. "Zuko, Mako, now!" Korra shouted, as they all shot one long fire blast back at the door. It was more powerful than any of them could have expected. Mori and his men joined in, hoping to keep them out of the building for as long as possible. The firebenders didn't budge: They broke down the walls on either side of the door, effectively creating their own cover. The glass broke into massive shards, which shattered upon hitting the floor. They shot blast after blast at Korra and her team, but between the Avatar, fourteen expert firebenders, an airbending master, a lavabender and a waterbending general, they could hold their own for the longest time.
Valka deflected blow after blow, and fortunately, the impromptu pond didn't drain. Through the skylight, they saw Alca taking off, as they probably waited for the triads to get inside, where they couldn't get a clean shot as easily. They were wrong. Korra saw how blast after blast was sent straight up, as that could be their only target.
"Opal, throw me your glider!" She did just that. With outstanding accuracy, Opal threw her glider precisely into Korra's path, as she jumped up. She knew she was vulnerable, but Mako, Zuko and Valka jumped out from behind the wall to try and buy Korra some time. She flew up, straight through the skylight, and saw precisely what she had been afraid of: Alca was under heavy attack. There were four firebenders, all propelling themselves around him, forcing the bison to keep evading their fire blasts. Yin and Song were working double time trying to keep the president and their brother safe. From what Korra could make out from a small distance, there were only two firebenders on the president's guard.
"The Avatar! Kyru, keep her busy! Korra heard one of them shout. She wasn't going to make it that easy for him. With one quick move, she folded the glider, and fell a few dozen feet. He dove after her, but she unfolded it again, as he shot past. Korra kicked an air blast after him, which he obviously hadn't anticipated. He took the full brunt of the shot, and slammed into the ground. He wasn't getting up any time soon, Korra could see that much, even from way up here. They flew past a skyscraper largely made of stone, which meant San now had all the ammo he needed. Even on a bison, which was all over the place trying to evade fireblasts, he managed to get a firm foothold and launched a barrage of bricks from the building's wall. The precise aim must have been genetic, because he had that from his father. He scored a clean headshot, causing the firebender to fall from the sky. Korra managed to catch a few bricks with her earthbending, and threw them back up to the bison's saddle.
However, in their ever so short moment of distraction, the leader of the troupe had flown around the building and fired a large blast at the bison. Alca was startled, and made half a loop, back in the direction of City Hall. Korra watched it happen, and the worst possible thing happened: Yin had fallen off the saddle. She was in free fall, and Korra dove straight after her. She managed to catch up to her and caught her on the glider, but couldn't bear the weight of both of them. It was a sloppy landing, but they were both still in on piece.
"Yin, you remember the skylight next to Alca, on top of City Hall?"
-"Yeah, what about it?"
"I broke it on my way out. Get to the roof, and look if you can get back to your parents. If not, stay there until I get back." Korra said, while she handed the airbender the glider.
-"But what about San and Song? We can't just leave them to their own devices!"
"I got something else for them." With that, Korra closed her eyes and slammed her fist into the palm of her other hand. When her eyes opened again, they had the Avatar's trademark white glow. She gave Yin a meaningful smile, and with one quick fire blast, took off in pursuit of Alca and his attackers.
One of them had flown ahead of the mighty beast, and touched down on a rooftop. He prepared to shoot a bolt of lightning, but Korra was there first. She tackled him, which clearly took him by surprise. Korra ditched him, and at the immense speed they were travelling, he slammed into a building rather violently. She let Alca catch up with her and jumped on, when the last firebender did something she wasn't expecting: he created a pair of massive fire whips, and he brought them down on top of them. Korra looked gazed upon them, and shouted at the rider: "Dive! Dive! Dive!"
Alca did just that, but another problem loomed right in front of them: City Hall. No way they could avoid it. Korra and San leaped forwards, and blew a big hole in the side of the building. They crashed right into the lobby, which by now had been turned into a warzone. There was of lava all over the place (it was even on the ceiling somehow), the pond was about half empty, but they had halted the worst of the fighting. Momentarily. The rider put Alca down in the pond, and they all jumped behind the reception. Bolin threw up another wall so that Alca was fully behind cover. Much to Korra's relief, Yin was sitting right next to him. San and Song joined them, and Korra took Gaia straight to Zuko, who was in cover next to Mako. The chief wasted no time addressing the elephant koi in the room: "Korra, what is he doing here?"
"We came under heavy fire, there is no way we can get out of here on Alca. He's too big and too slow. There's only one way we're getting out of here." Korra said, as she pointed to the firebenders. "Through them."
"She's right, Mako." Zuko turned his attention to Mori, who was busy shooting a bolt of lightning at rubble from the wall Korra broke down. "Mori! We're going to make another attempt at moving the president out of here! Can you lay down some cover?"
"Sure can. Get ready to move!"
Mori and his men formed a line, and Korra was slightly shocked to see that there were only nine left. They jumped out from their cover, and between all of their fire blasts, they could create a nearly impenetrable wall.
Korra suddenly had a bright idea: blow more air onto the flames. "Opal, join me!" She did, and with more air on the fire, the flames went from a traditional orange-red to a more frightening blue-ish white. This bought them enough time, and surrounded by a wall of fire, all of them stood in the middle, while the president's firebenders, Mako, Zuko and Korra closed off the rear. Yin and Song joined Opal in blowing air on the fire, and they moved towards the door.
Once they had reached it, Bolin and San raised cover on either side of them, and shot the new walls back at the triads. The rest of the firebenders fanned out, giving them a clear view of what had become of the square. With most of the triad's men temporarily out of commission, Korra and Valka used this moment to freeze them all in place.
With a little room to breathe, they gazed upon a sight that stunned them all. Korra was the only one to say even a single word.
All of the buildings surrounding the square were on fire.
When they turned around, City Hall itself was also on fire. The dome on top was burning, flames were bursting out of it.
Korra snapped the group back into reality when she started shouting at Mako: "Are you happy now?! I warned you this would happen!"
"Let's not say "I told you so". Mr. President, we need the United Forces and we need them now. Declare a state of emergency, and march in everything within range."
"Very well." Gaia and Valka took Mori's radio and went a short distance away, while the rest of the group set about strategizing. Mako asked the most obvious question: "Now what?"
-"We can fly out on Alca, get to Air Temple Island. Secluded, heavily guarded by military police and a few dozen airbenders." Bolin suggested, but Opal objected.
"Alca can't carry us all. Even if Zuko calls in Druk, I doubt they can carry us all."
The captain of the president's guard interrupted: "We have a window and we need to use that. We're getting out of here on the flying bison, same plan as before."
Opal still wasn't very happy about it, but she agreed, and had some advice. "Alright, but this time, gain as much altitude as fast as you can. Sky bison can fly very high, well out of reach of any firebenders."
Mako's radio started buzzing again: "We need back up at the Red Monsoon's headquarters! We're being overrun!"
"Hold on, back up is inbound. Just hold them off as long as you can." Mako turned his attention to the group again. "We're closer than any other units. We'll use the police cars underneath City Hall. Let's go."
The president, his guards and the children took off. They took four of Mori's firebenders with them as well, just in case. Korra and the group went to the parking area in the basement. Korra used her metalbending to break the fence down, and much to their relief, found a whole fleet of cars. They commandeered two vans, and set off in the direction of the Red Monsoon.
Mako and Bolin were the designated drivers, and Mako took the lead. He gunned it when they got near the headquarters of the waterbending triad, and he tried to plow a hole through the wall of criminals. He was stopped by a bolt of lightning shot at the engine with absolutely perfect aim. Bolin saw it in time, and the parked sideways, effectively creating cover. Korra and Bolin knocked the cars over, and they set to work. The Imperial Firebenders were on their right, struggling, and they had already lost several men. The police officers were backed up against the wall of the building, fighting alongside the waterbenders of the triad. Korra immediately saw they were running low on water. She kicked down the door of the building opposite, and headed straight for the roof. Propelling herself with firebending, she made it to the roof of the headquarters. There was a narrow alley, which ended on the street on the other side. Here, Korra knew there was a water main. She dug a hole, just like she had at City Hall. She sank the entire ally, which quickly filled up.
Korra joined the police, who needed her help the most.
"There's a flow of water inbound, get ready for it!" she shouted at the police officers, who were having trouble keeping hold of their positions.
-"Avatar Korra, it's damn good to see you!" one of the officers said, while deflecting another fire blast. "Most of the waterbenders fled inside when their supply ran out, I'll go get them!"
Korra shot a few blasts at the firebenders, who were having trouble with the three fronts. The waterbenders came out, just as the water flowed in. They went straight to work: employing their aggressive style of waterbending, it were the firebenders who were now starting to feel the heat. As their numbers started dwindling, they suddenly took off. They realized it had become a losing battle, and made a run for it. They flew off, back in the direction of City Hall. With the battle over, they could take a closer look at the injured. There were many. The Imperial Firebenders had lost five of eighteen men, the police even more. The Red Monsoons came out, as a few knew healing. They, Korra, and Valka set to work. Korra helped a police officer.
"How did they attack?"
-"They came out of nowhere. We were suddenly surrounded by a wall of fire. This was a well planned operation, the whole thing. They must have spent months planning this. We were getting hammered, when, just as sudden, those guys showed up," he told Korra, as he pointed to the Imperial Firebenders. "I don't know who they are, but I'm damn glad they were here. Without them, it would have been a slaughterhouse. The Red Monsoons could only help up as long as their water lasted, which wasn't very long."
Mako walked up to her. "Korra, we need to go back. I just got reports from other officers, all of the firebenders attacking them took off. They must be regrouping, because they were all reported to go back in the direction of City Hall. At the Terra Triad, they lost, they had no other choice than to abandon their post. The Imperial Firebenders went with them, but when they came back, the building had been burned to the ground and most of the earthbenders were dead."
"Well shit. This is not good. What's out next move?"
-"I don't know. Either we go after them and run the risk of walking into a trap, but we will have them cornered and together. It's all-in from here."
"If they ran from the others as well, they will all be there. It's a perfect opportunity to take them all down."
-"They were also suffering heavy losses at the Triple Threats. Alright." He grabbed his radio, and turned his frequency to all his men. "All units, commandeer every working vehicle in your vicinity. If they are regrouping, we must cut them off before they have the chance to launch another wave of attacks. They were heading on the direction of City Hall, we will cut them off there. Get there as soon as possible. Out."
"Our vans are pretty banged up. How were you planning on getting back?"
"Use ours." came from behind them. Korra turned around and saw one of the triads standing there. "We owe you big time, and we are going with you. We have a few cars parked at the lot around the corner. All of our benders want to help you get those bastards."
Korra could read the doubt of Mako's face. "You needed to defend your own property, but you are not to seek out a fight," he said.
Korra disagreed: "Mako, you just said it yourself, we could be walking straight into a trap. We need all the help we can get, and these guys are properly trained."
Mako still didn't look very happy about it, but he did come around. "Fine. But I want as many of them alive. Don't make me regret it. If they give up, you will not continue attacking, or I will prosecute you. Got it?"
-"Whatever you say, chief." The waterbender gathered the rest of the triads, about two dozen. Together, they put the injured and dead inside. The ones still capable of fighting went with Korra to the parking lot, where they found a few trucks. Even though some of the officers did recognize a few as stolen, they decided not to make a big fuss about it now. They filled the tanks in the back to the brim with water, and set off.
At City Hall, Korra's worst fear had become a reality: there was huge group of people in front of the burning building. Mako gave the order to move in, and from all directions, cars moved onto the square. Druk had also arrived, and Zuko had mounted him, keeping the firebenders from flying off again, with Korra's aid. Bolin effectively separated the firebenders by creating gully's of lava between them, and they were slowly forced back into the burning building.
Korra and Zuko went back to the ground, where they picked their own fights. Zuko was dueling three men at once, and could still maintain the upper hand in the fight. Korra had a significant advantage with all four elements, and wasted no time: she pushed them back into the building. Opal was helping Mako, who combined their skills to create blasts of fire so bright it hurt Korra's eyes. Valka used the supply the Red Monsoons had brought with them to freeze quite a few of them in place. Some managed to break out again, but most were incapable of fighting on.
They pulled back in the lobby, seeking refuge behind the very desk Korra and her group had been, only half an hour ago.
Korra tried to shout at them, which was not easy with the battle raging on. She turned to drastic measures. After a brief moment of concentration, her eyes glowed white, and she rose up from the ground in an air sphere. She gathered the other three elements around her, and spoke with the help of Raava's voice: "Firebenders of Republic City! Give up this fight! You have nowhere to go!" They stared in awe, as they came out of their cover. Korra settled down on the ground again. Now out of the Avatar State again, she turned to Mako. "All yours," she said, with a smirk on her face she just couldn't resist.
Her entire team moved in as the firebenders came out of their cover with their hands up. The waterbenders started extinguishing the burning building, and Valka, Opal, Mako and Bolin were standing around her.
Bolin was very excited: "That. Was. Amazing! Ahh, I wish I had a camera to film that. It would have been so great! Can you do that again?"
Korra smiled. "Another time. Come, we need to scan the building for stragglers."
They did just that, as they moved into the rest of the building. Korra was surprised that it looked mostly intact, until they got to the president's office at the east side of the building. The far wall was still smoldering, and when they checked the other side, it had burned out completely. The next row of offices was overlooking the lobby, and Korra couldn't help but feel saddened by what she saw when she looked out the window. The hall had scorch marks everywhere, destruction all around. Sure, the firebending triads hadn't won, but at what cost? She gazed upon the pool and artificial wall, which had saved lives more than once in the past hour.
She was pulled back into reality when she heard Valka's radio buzzing: "Commander Valka, what is the status at City Hall?" Korra recognized the voice of the captain of the president's guard.
-"We've beaten the firebenders, and are scanning the building. Do not leave Air Temple Island until I give the order. Copy?"
"Copy that. Out."
Valka turned his attention to his group again. "Come on. Let's get this over with. This place is creeping me out."
They silently nodded, as they moved to the door of the office. Korra saw a bright flash, and then, nothing.
To Mako, it all happened in slow-motion. Korra had stepped inside, when suddenly, a bolt of lightning came thundering her way. She took a direct hit to the chest. Opal, Valka, Bolin and Mako didn't even have time to think over what they did. They saw the firebender who shot Korra, standing behind a desk. Simultaneously, they shot at him. Mako heard the wall break, but didn't pay any attention to him anymore. Only one thought was circling through his mind.
He looked at her, and it was shocking. The bolt had struck her precisely in the heart. The scorched clothes revealed a wound the size of his hand. He vaguely heard someone shout for a healer, but it didn't matter anymore. She was gone. All he could do was hold her amongst the rubble.
And for the first time since he could remember, he felt tears running down his cheek.
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