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The feeling was... Indescribable. Mako just couldn't get used to it. It had been a week since the battle for Republic City, and he couldn't shake the image of that lightning bolt hitting Korra. The open wound on her chest. The smell of the seared flesh among the burnt office supplies.
Even though he had gone to work every morning, he hadn't done anything. He took calls all day, but none of them stuck, they were continuously overruled by that same thought going through his head.
Mako barely remembered what happened after Opal, Bolin and Valka took him away. He started coming back around the next morning, when he woke up in a bed on Air Temple Island. He had gone to the kitchen, where he found everyone. There were dozens of tissues lying all around the room, and most eyes were bright red. Opal hugged him as soon as he walked in. It was what he needed. What they both needed.
He took it upon himself to call Senna. Mako could hear from the other side of the phone that she was in shambles. He wanted to crawl through the telephone to comfort her, but he couldn't. Hearing the elderly woman cry was heartbreaking. He got a call from the office, the rookie officer asked whether he was coming into the office today. Out of nowhere, he suddenly felt a burst of anger coming up, and he scolded the rookie: "None of your fucking business! I'm where I need to be and you should just leave me alone!" With that, he smacked the phone on the hook, smashed the table on which it was standing to the side and broke down once again.
He sat down, leaning against the wall. Bolin was standing in the doorway, startled by his outburst. He sat down next to his brother and put an arm over his shoulder. "Mako... We're all feeling the same here. Korra was..."
"We are not feeling the same. She warned me. She told me this would happen. She..." He didn't finish. "How did I react? By yelling at her for doing what I should have done. It's all my fault."
"Mako, you shouldn't be blaming yourself. There is only one to blame here and he's dead."
Mako knew his brother was right, but he was blaming himself. He couldn't shake the feeling that if he had actually done what she told him to, she would still be alive. The brothers just sat there side by side, staring at the wall.
He suddenly felt another burst of anger coming. He tried to suppress it, but it still got the better of him. "You know what? Just fuck off already! Let me mind my own business, you mind yours!" And with that, he stormed off and went to the station.
Mako wanted to find the new Avatar. An earthbender. It was going to be a daunting task. He could be either in the Earth Kingdom or in the United Republic. He started in the most obvious place: the hospitals. He ordered three of his borough lieutenants to go to the hospitals in their respective borough, cross-reference the babies born to earthbenders against his own rough estimate of the time of Korra's death.
One of them objected. "Sir? Is that really a priority right now? We're still trying to clean up te mess left by the triads."
"Are you questioning my judgement?"
-"No sir, we are worried about your well-being."
Mako was surprised at this. Lieutenant Ji, who was the one to speak, was normally more reserved and professional. He kept his business and private life strictly separate, and while most people in the department thought he came off as cold, Mako always liked his stoic efficiency. It mirrored his own.
He gestured the other two to leave, and they did. "Lieutenant, who are "we"?"
-"Do I have permission to speak freely?"
"Of course you do, otherwise you'd be on your way to Republic City General."
-"Have you looked in the mirror recently? You look terrible. I'd wager you haven't caught more then two hours of sleep a night, even though it's probably closer a form of unconsciousness brought on by sheer fatigue. You don't eat. You barely get out of your office, but the amount of work you do is minimal."
"What are you suggesting?"
-"Maybe you should take some time off. It's no secret you were close friends with Avatar Korra, and her... This whole situation is obviously getting the best of you."
"Thank you, lieutenant."
-"May I ask... Does this whole "find the new Avatar" have anything to do with that meeting she interrupted, about two weeks back?"
"No. This matters to the world. You go now, the others already have a head start."
-"Yes sir." Mako noticed the hint of doubt in Ji's voice and the look in his eyes, essentially saying "We both know you're lying." It was true. Mako was lying to himself. He was doing this out of some misplaced sense of self-redemption. He felt guilty and now he was trying to fix that by doing something entirely pointless.
The funeral was held in the tradition of the Southern Water Tribe, two days after Korra's death. A Southern Water Tribe funeral was simple but elegant, embracing the waterbenders' connection with nature. It's a never ending circle. The body of the deceased was placed on a shelf of ice, while waterbenders created a tomb around it. The iceberg would be set out to sea, sailing into the unknown. Of course, "the unknown" wouldn't be very far in the summer heat of the United Republic.
First, there had been a memorial service in the park, again, very fitting. All high people had been there, most had even given speeches. President Gaia. Lord Zuko. Fire Lord Iroh. General Valka. Her cousins, Desna and Eska. The King of Omashu. The entirety of The Metal Clan. Every airbender who received their abilities after Harmonic Convergence. Mako couldn't bring himself to appear publicly just yet. Even Captain Mori traveled back to pay his respects.
The ceremony itself took place at Aang Memorial Island, which seemed rather fitting. Only people close to her had been allowed on the island, on special request from Senna. There would only be pre-setup cameras, Mako and Gaia had personally forbidden any journalists from entering the island on that day.
The whole fleet of the Tribe had sailed out, and formed two rows, springing from Aang Memorial Island. All water-borne traffic had been banned from both Yue Bay and the Mo Ce Sea. Pretty much every available airship had been rented out for people who wanted to pay their last respects, even though they weren't allowed to follow the iceberg onto open water.
The funeral itself was wrenching. Mako led the ceremony, holding a short speech. He recalled her greatest actions, but mostly what he remembered and wanted to remember. When he was done, Senna herself gave the tomb of ice the last nudge, sending it out between the rows of battleships. The soldiers on them gently pushed it out onto open water, while the music played. Everybody just stood there, on the dock, contemplating in silence. It was that very silence that was absolutely deafening.
"Sir? They're ready for you in interrogation."
Mako's secretary rudely awoke him from his daydreaming. "Thank you, I'll be right there." He had been wanting to do this for a while. They had identified the commanders in the field, while the big guys stayed clear from the action, trying to keep their own hands clean. Mako would have to be very convincing in order to get these guys to talk.
The first two bore no fruit. They refused to say anything, so Mako was done quickly. The third guy, Mako could instantly tell, was very nervous, clearly not a seasoned veteran.
"Quite the mess you guys made out there."
-"Forget it! I won't talk!"
Bingo. "I haven't asked you anything yet. You can't deny you have stirred up quite a bit of trouble."
-"You got nothing one me!"
"We have you, a known member of a firebending triad, at the scene of a few dozen firebenders setting City Hall on fire, killing the Avatar, twenty-three police officers, sixty-eight other triad members, fifteen Imperial Firebenders, thirty-two civilians, plus attempts at the life of the President, me, Lord Zuko and other prominent members of the Republic. You're staring down life in prison. In fact, you're lucky we weren't having this conversation ten years ago, they would have given you the noose for this."
The effect was precisely as Mako was expecting: he was growing more nervous by the second. There were beads of sweat forming at the top of his head, he was shaking, and even while he was handcuffed to the table, he couldn't keep his hands still.
"There is, however, a bright side to this." Mako continued, "You will spend the rest of your life in a box, but whether or not I throw away the key is up to you. I'm offering you the possibility of parole, if you tell me everything you know. Oh, and you might want to decide quick. I got four more men waiting for me down the hall. I'm going to make them the same offer, and it only extends once. Your call."
It wasn't a total lie, he did have four others waiting down the hall to interrogate. But he would preferably see all of them talking, so they can build the strongest possible case. But this guy didn't know that, and even if he did, he'd probably forgotten about it by now. Mako started walking towards the door, when he was stopped by the criminal's voice.
-"Wait! I'll talk, I'll talk. It was the Infernos. They came up with the plan to bring down the other triads."
Mako took his seat again, as the man had visibly calmed down. "Go on."
-"They came up with a plan for an armistice during the comet. We were quietly planning to take them down, but they suggested we'd bundle our efforts to take down the other three triads."
"Why did you go along with this?"
-"Well, if we'd be fighting each other, we wouldn't get anywhere. We'd be equally matched and we wouldn't get anywhere. If we went along with their plan, it would be good for the both of us. We'd split up their turf fifty-fifty. It seemed like a good deal."
"So why attack City Hall?"
-"We figured that we'd tie up the police over there, based on the assumption the president and other figures of importance would be more important to protect than a bunch of triads. We never expected the kind of resistance we got. Far more police than we could have ever imagined, and those firebenders. I don't know who they were, but they were good. Far too good to be civvies, and fighting the Avatar was definitely not a part of the plan."
"So you had her killed after you already lost?"
-"I don't know who did that or why. The Avatar was never part of our plan. I don't think the guy who did that even realized who he was shooting."
Mako's eyes grew large and his breathing deepened. "So her death... was all for nothing?"
He didn't say anything. He just nodded, ever so slow. Mako walked out. The interrogation room was suddenly far too small. So was the hallway. So was the lobby. He needed to get out of there, and right now. He jumped on his motorcycle, and just drove. He had probably broken about a dozen laws by the time he stopped the catch his breath again. He didn't know where he was and really, he didn't care. He let himself sink onto the ground, resting his head against his motorcycle.
"Mako, when are going to stop blaming yourself for this?" Bolin came to him after the funeral. It had been two days since they last talked on Air Temple Island. They sat down at the same wall they had been a few days ago. "You're not thinking clear anymore."
"Maybe that isn't the real problem. Out of the five people there, I could have done something. I've known how to do it practically my whole life!" He doubted when he said that.
"That's not it. You did what you thought was best, and she disagreed with you. Didn't you two always?" Bolin paused for a moment. "You don't just need to stop blaming yourself, you need to forgive yourself. Out of all the people here, you are the only one blaming you for what happened."
"You're probably right, but I don't know if I can. I-I don't know if I know how. But first, I need to apologize to you for the other day. You didn't deserve that."
"But you needed it, and that makes it worthwhile for me."
Mako smiled. He knew he could always count on his brother for these kinds of things. For as long as he could remember, Bolin had always been there to make him feel better, no matter how bad the world around them seemed to get.
"Come on." Bolin stood up and reached out to his brother to pull him back on his feet. "You'll figure something out."
Mako came to his senses again. He realized he'd driven all the way up to the mountains, and that he had a gorgeous view over the city. He knew what he had to do. He had to amend for his mistakes. Finding the new Avatar was crucial. This time, he would get it right.
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