|More from Hawshire||Adventure/Drama||G||None||None|
|The Factory Boy|
13th, October, 2012
War...the physical conflict between two factions that were unable/unwilling to make a rational compromise and resorted to force in order to acquire their leader's desires.
But war isn't fought by leaders, it's fought by the people under them. War is also the most effective psychological method of leaders to acquire what they want from their country. As an example, do you know what I got for a birthday present when I turned 10? A little card that said: "Your lands and family are now property of King Hiroto and the Qomawyn National Industry. You are all forced to pay with 20 years worth of service for defying the orders of the King"...I was turned into a slave, because my dad didn't want to hand over his farmlands to our leader.
The world that everyone once knew had been corrupted and torn away by tyranny, greed and desperation. This new world was no longer divided with 4 nations, but over 100, which continued to fight each other in an eternal war of dominance and ideologies that would only end with one side acquiring absolute supremacy over all others.
The world was no longer fire, earth, water and air...it was a complex and poisonous mixture of all; combined with the industrial revolution and advancements in the military, it helped extend the war across the globe, claiming millions upon millions of lives. How were people supposed to react when an enemy soldier could come and with only pulling on a trigger, destroy entire families within seconds?
The world was in utter chaos, and the Avatar's presence wasn't helping anyone...that's why, most of us have already abandoned hope...permanently...like my mother.
But I know, I must survive, and I will help and devote my life into surviving this struggle, and hope that one day, I, as well as everyone else, will be free of these chains.
Chapter 1: The Balance of Power
Damn my life...- I thought while I took a break to breathe...between fire bending the boilers for hours and hours nonstop, my mind was always too busy. I had to constantly blow streams of fire into the furnace for it to warm the boiler, generate steam and the rest is unimportant history that end with generating electricity that I wouldn't use anyways...the job was called "Tea-potting"... my life literally depended on warming a giant "teapot", nonstop, 12 hours a day, 7 days a week!
"Back to work you slob!" The guards would yell from the gridded walkways above me. Work and Obey for the greater good- I despised obeying, my work, my home, my whole life was joke!
Why not use lightning for electricity? Easy, it tends to be hard to find an experienced Firebender, in the Earth Kingdom, considering most of them were fighting the wars...so us kids stayed behind and "brewed", helping generate Electricity and smelt Steel with minimal pay.
Everything for the war effort - Qomawyn really emphasized on the Everything
By the end of the day, my body would shake, my muscles would ache and my joints would cramp, all daily gifts from work. I don't know how anyone else can stand the stress of being an exploited-proletariat, I can barely make it through the day and the 1 hour walk back to town would always be the final drop of the glass, especially with the horrible Qomawyn Winter, blowing snow at my coal stained clothes.
I lived in Qomawyn's District 3, a recently settled town at the north of the...ex-Earth Kingdom. It was settled by "Qomawyn Electric Corporation", a government funded Enterprise that quickly gained too much power, and with the "Great Split", it funded its own nation and sprung roots across the world.
Since they had become independent, much like many other "Overpowered Corporation Nations", they had the absolute authority to rule and could do as they pleased. Their mercenary armies were too strong for any rebellions, and believe me, people have rebelled many times, and lost everything. Through my youth and early teens, I have been taught discipline and fear, anything out of that would be punished, my neck and chest stand scarred for good as a reminder that if I must live, I must obey, and to prove obedience, I must work.
It took a few times for me to learn this when I was stubborn...it didn't make any difference to them, not even my father dared to stand up against them, not even once. So, in the end, I was far too poor to pay for a waterbending healer to fix my scars
Well, considering the wars, it would be impossible to get a hold of one anyways...
Like every night, I sat on my usual table on the welfare center. I hated having to stand and wait in line for an hour or so in order to get a meal...so normally, I'd just sit down and stare at the table's candle until everyone left...ironic how an energy company utilizes very bad quality candles in order to light their own buildings...
I felt sicker and emptier than ever...it was one of those nights again. I could feel that my heart had skipped a few beatings. Every breath seemed to be my last, nothing was in me. I stared straight ahead at the gloomy candle; the guards' laughter and mockery flew by my ears, sounding like the annoying bugs we know they are, echoing through the diner... nobody thought they were funny.
"Hey there! It's good to see you in one piece"
I was overwhelmed, I pretty much instantly lost consciousness and slammed my face onto the table...it had been over 3 days since I last ate and collapsing in the midst of something was becoming more and more frequent each day, but none during work thankfully, I could get severely maimed for life...or worse, fired and sent to the army!
When I came to, I had a small bowl of steaming rice and some water on my side of the table; my lifelong friend, Akira, glaring and smiling at me with her scarred lips as she ate.
"Uhh...how long have I been out? Is it morning already?" I rubbed my forehead for the blunt pain to ease.
She giggled before answering me; she always did when the answer is plain obvious; "Of course you did, you overslept me getting you a bowl of nutritious rice, part of the perfect diet of a growing young dumb. This time, with actual salt!" She smirked.
"Still...I am getting concerned about this low blood pressure problem of yours" she tried to be serious by hiding her smile but she continued giggling" "Your face has the table's markings on it friend!" she added, pulling on my left cheek.
"How'd you manage to get it so quickly? Did you cut in the line or something?" I asked surprised, gently getting her hand off me.
"I am employee of the month I can cut whatever line I want, when I want" She answered, proudly looking at her fingertips.
"That didn't make much sense"
"I don't have to make sense, you know why? Because I paid for the rice and that's just how this world works, keep quiet and eat it, tea-boy before you collapse...again and scare me to death. You just gotta be a bit more than skin and bone if you want to look nice" She answered, still smiling, although this time I knew it was a sarcastic one...it was still nice though
"...Well...I guess I owe you the time...and the food" I answered, searching my pockets for some money
"There's really no need for that Hiroshi" She answered; "That's what friends are for, you would've done the same wouldn't you?" she added, sipping her water.
I never really know if I flinch, smirk or smile...I know it must be some sort of weird witchcraft that makes her do this, but for some reason, she always finds the way to make me feel...odd, I could never stare at her...fiery, yet kind, yellow eyes; her scarred mouth and her unharmed innocent expressions, without feeling... that I was at ease, at home, a feeling I never got when actually being in my room, or working, or with even with my father.
"Hey tea-boy, those saggy eyes of yours tell me you lack some grub and some rest; come on, dig in before it gets cold!" Akira interrupted my eavesdropping.
"Did I miss the news?" I asked Akira after I came to my full senses (And a full stomach)
"Nope...but I am worried about it...I sort of get mixed feelings about hearing the news...sure it's nice to know what's happening around the world but...its always horrifying news about death, battles and further failures of our so called 'Avatar'..." She looked down at the floor, covering her face with her coal stained ginger hair.
Hope, the only reason why most of us stay alive and do their best to survive, they hope they'll see something brighter than...this on their future, but I knew the truth
"The Avatar is pure nonsense...we're pretty much alone in this world" I replied annoyed at my lack of future planning; hiding my anger by slipping the charcoal tasting water; "UGH...They don't even give us decent water anymore!"
"Well, what are you going to do about it? You Still have to fulfill your 20 Year long contract you punk, and if I remember correctly, you still got 12 years to fulfill" The guard mocked me, walking by slowly with a steaming chicken wok on his plate
I tried to stand up to argue against him; the bloody thug must've heard me standing, but he didn't even bother to turn around to face me; Akira held my hand and shook her head from side to side when she saw I could do something foolish; I groaned with grief; "I feel so powerless, I mean, I am a fire bender, son of a proud ex-colonial family, and yet somehow I am stuck here, heating a tea pot day after day!" I argued, getting the attention of a few guards.
"Hiroshi...keep quiet, please, I don't want us to get into trouble" She whispered at me.
"Well maybe I do!" I replied selfishly.
"Hiroshi!" She forced herself to yell in a controlled manner, pulling hard at my sleeves, getting the attention of all the guards "I've lost too many friends already, I won't stand by and let your testosterone get the better of you" She replied, holding my left hand tightly with hers; "You say the Avatar is a hopeless cause...well then I only have one last person to rely on...and he's going to get himself killed for something as dumb as chicken wok!"
I drifted for a few seconds, noticing the evil smirks on the guards...they were waiting for an excuse, but I recalled all of my past punishments. I looked at her once more, she always had helped me survive through them, caring for me when I needed her, "I'm...sorry...it's just that...I'm so tired of all of this, something needs to change, and fast...because I refuse to waste my life in this dump, working for...these people" I whispered the final part.
"Sometimes...it's good to listen and obey...we have to be patient, wait this out, nothing lasts forever, right?" She tried to comfort me; even though she was being a bit of a hypocrite...she knew that people had thought the same thing in the Hundred Year War, and there was no "Waiting it out."
But still, I managed to smile back and sit down; moments before a guard violently flung open the entrance door, screaming; "News, THE NEWS!"
He ran inside and jumped on top of a table, everyone gathering around him in a circle, us included; "Everyone listen to this..." he said nervously while taking his scroll out; "After much diplomatic and military confrontation, our king, has managed to safely annex and secure much of the northern parts of the Earth Kingdom, leaving our nation with the most extended and secure borders after the Fire Nation. We have successfully defeated the Khanate and Ezhiung at District 1, as well as re-settled a foothold in Jiatsu, but the Imperial forces have taken a toll on our manpower, attacking us in the Eastern mountains...but here is the best news of all...Avatar Tetsuo has sworn fealty to our King and will be visiting the district, TOMORROW"
The whole place suddenly exploded with cries of emotions (Happiness, joy, surprise and anger) the Avatar would visit our town!?
"Isn't it wonderful!?" Akira asked me, looking around at the joyful crowd and sharing their glee
It shocks me as to how lightly I took the news, the Avatar would be coming! Why then, why was I filled with fear and mistrust...ironically, the answer was a rhetorical question; why would the Avatar swear fealty to King Hiroto? The man pretty much emanated evil as his favorite perfume essence; GAH!- This was far too confusing for me to take...my brain mustn't have been working correctly that night...I should've just grabbed Akira's hand and run, without stopping, but I didn't; I just walked out and headed home
I couldn't stand anymore stress; my situation forced me to grow a nasty choleric attitude, that sometimes turned me into a paranoid monster, everything I experienced always caused too much emotional and physical stress in my "Communal home" A Stone made house we shared with another family. Earth benders, tough people, but after nearly another century since the Hundred Year War, all racial tensions seem to have vanished.
Heng was the last remaining son of our neighbors; the other 3 joined... well...they rather were forced, to join the Qomawyn Army to fight.
When I first met him 10 Years ago, once the Civil War was well underway, Heng was twice the man I would ever be, even if he was just 7. He'd wake up every morning and take a deep breath...then yell to the guards; "You shall all be my slaves one day, Laugh now punks!" And laugh...for about an hour, or until he'd get yelled at.
He'd work endlessly and always end up with employee of the month, and when he had free time, he'd go from house to house, fixing their holes and beds with his earthbending (Yes...our beds are made of stone). That was, until his family began to disintegrate when he turned 14.
First his 2 older brothers were lost to the war; and then his waterbending sister, turned into a nurse...and sold to the army...not by his family, but by the Factory manager, who considered her "of his Property". I never did meet his family correctly; when we were forced to move into his home, I only bothered to meet Heng, never caring about his brothers until they were gone.
Every day, he became bleaker and paler; he lost tone of his muscles and got bad eyesight for spending days underground, mining
Instead of shining hope...he started to rely on it...but a miner's life isn't bright, and it's not just figuratively speaking, He'd spend most of his time under my feet, not being able to enjoy whatever time he still had with his parents, mainly because he could stay days, weeks included, underground, digging out stones
That night, there he was, lying on his back over the cold stone floor under the moonlight, his warm breath steaming out of his slow-breathing nose; "You better get back inside, you'll catch a cold if you don't" I told him, receiving nothing but a long and silent sigh in response
I waited a few seconds, staring at him; "Good night Heng" I know I wouldn't receive a response, but it was worth a try. Heng's attitude would change swiftly in different days, depending on the mood of his parents and the treatment of the guards.
Even if the guards were; "Just a bunch of walking hollow stones" according to Heng; they had no respect for us, they abused us at work, stalked us, blackmailed us and controlled us with fear. Heng would normally mess with them, big time...his mood depended on how successful he was, and how weak was the punishment.
I knew that he must've suffered greatly that day...so it would be best not to do anything, no one ever did anything, and it was better that way, I hated getting into trouble with the Guards.
I walked inside and left my soaked and dirty jacket on top of the kitchen table.
As I stumbled on my stone bed, I didn't even bother to get rid of my stained work clothing, and just simply collapsed on it, not caring about its solidness. But when I closed my eyes...I felt an awkward sensation...I felt warm...I felt as if I was home, my real home at the farmlands and not district 3..
Seagulls were flying around the orange painted dusk sky. I was standing in the middle of a wheat field. I remember the last time my father ever farmed, he collected Wheat
My dwelling was interrupted when my arm was being pulled. There she was...my mother, walking with me, guiding me through the field. I felt her hand and swear, it felt so real, so I accepted the fact that this wasn't a dream, even if I knew that it plainly was; I wouldn't stop to ruin it; I wanted to follow it's flow.
We sat down inside an old Fire Nation pagoda, outside of the field. Its inside was warm, the floor was beautifully painted by the light of the sun, glowing through the colored stained windows.
"What are we doing in here mother?" I asked kindly, still dwelling at the beautiful scenery of Fire Nation dragons, painted onto the walls.
"My love...you have grown so much since I last saw you, you look so strong...these last 15 years must've been..." She answered, her amber eyes crystallizing while she spoke
"They have been...tough"
"Yes, they have been challenging sweetheart...but all of this pain, all of this suffering, it is making you strong, it's preparing you...which leads me to the point of why I came" She answered with a very serious tone of voice
I was confused...this had to be a dream, what was happening?
"I was granted permission by Aang to speak with you"
"Avatar Aang...didn't he die almost 2 centuries ago?" I should clarify that I've never gone to school, I know the basics of literature and history thanks to Heng's father, back when he still had the spirit to speak about Aang's great adventures.
She smiled and closed her eyes before answering; "Sweetie, there's more to it than just death, but life is still far superior, even if you don't have the Avatar's capability of going in and out of the Spirit World...quickly, there isn't much time, I have heard stories about the Qomawyn Kingdom gaining power...is this true?" She seemed to have realized that she made a mistake by trying to talk about her experience in the Spirit World and deflected. I noticed it, but didn't care
Instead, I looked away and sighed; "Yes mother...Avatar Tetsuo is joining King Hiroto's forces"
She looked confused and frightened; "Oh no, this is...this is terrible, just as Korra predicted!" yet I had the strange feeling, that she wasn't scared for her own sake
"Wait, why am I telling you this!? Where am I?!" I screamed, getting on my guard; "Is this some sort of mind trick the guards are pulling off? HUH?! Are you going to teach me about loyalty now, a-and how I should dedicate my life to serve "My" country!?"
"This isn't a dream Hiroshi" She answered, standing up and coming closer to me; "The life you're living isn't meant for you; it isn't meant for anyone."
"Then why...why is the Avatar helping this monster!?" I yelled back, tears dropping slowly from my eyes; "He's supposed to bring us hope, Akira told me so, but now, everything seems hopeless...and I HATE IT, I absolutely despise being a simple peon on Hiroto's little political gamble for power!".
"The Avatar must restore peace to the world...and right now, there is a situation not a single Avatar before has been forced to face...there are multiple balances, multiple choices, multiple forces that must be quelled and equalized in a way to achieve peace..."
"I understand this mom, but, why...of all people...of all nations, did the Avatar chose this forsaken and immoral kingdom?"
"I don't know...Something seems terribly off about Tetsuo, he's ignoring the knowledge of the previous Avatars; he's got plans of his own, that seem to not involve the restoration of peace" She answered, laying her hand over my face, clearing my tears; "Which is why, you shouldn't rely on him at all as your only hope for a normal world"
"What do I do?" I asked, feeling dizzy.
"Protect Iroh...and those who you love...dark times are upon us...and you must remain strong...oh Hiroshi, my son;" She whimpered, crying; "I lov-"
The sound of the local clock tower and an unusually strong stream of winter sunlight, woke me up from my dream; the bell was rung by the guards continuously for what seemed an eternity; "EVERYONE GET UP AND GO TO WORK!" They yelled over and over again.
I breathed in harshly, looking up at the ceiling; I rationalized that what I experienced had to be a dream, and I breathed in slowly to calm myself down, repeating the process until I cleared my thoughts, and stopped hearing the bell
I stood up from my bed and walked to my mirror, I was the only one in the house to have one. I lifted my shirt up to see if the rice had helped yesterday, but no, I could still see my ribs under my scarred skin; watching myself like that gave me nausea, so I shook my head and covered myself again with my working clothes.
I know we don't have much money...but I want to eat something!- I thought
I sighed and nearly sleep-walked towards the kitchen. My stomach grumbled angrily, demanding for the nutrition I needed...which wasn't consistent with what I gave it. I looked on the lower cabinets and took out our nearly emptied milk bucket Now...where'd I leave the cheese? -I thought
I opened the upper cabinet and; "WHAT THE-!?" I yelled when a big fat rat jumped out of the cabinet and into my face, throwing most of the plates and me, to the floor;
"YOU DISGUSTING FAT THING, GET BACK HERE!" I yelled, trying to aim my fist to fire bend and roast the thing that destroyed our plates
It hid under the wooden table, and I knew how expensive it would be to get a new one; I groaned and threw myself onto the floor, sliding under the table and trying to get a hold of the rat; many times I just ended up bumping my head over and over again with the table, throwing everything that was over it onto the floor.
I struggled in between the chairs, flipping the table upside down and throwing the chairs on their sides; "GET BACK HERE YOU LITTLE...RAT!"
I pursued my furry nemesis across the rooms, this was the 5th time I found this rat crawling around in our food, what did he think he was?! I knew what he was; "YOU'RE OFFICIALLY LUNCH!" I yelled but I tripped on a hole and hit my forehead on my bed
"Stupid floor...stupid bed..." I raised my head from the floor and saw that the rat was long gone and I made a mess for no reason; "Stupid rat..." I grumbled, feeling a swollen bump on my forehead
I walked back into the kitchen and found Heng gulping down the remains of the milk bucket. I swear I felt my jaw drop down to the floor; Heng simply greeted me with an inhuman burp, which actually felt like a slap on my face.
"Good morning" He spoke calmly, with a big rhetoric grin on his face; "You hungry?" He teased, "Not much" I answered Heng, crossing my arms; but my stomach must've heard my lie, because it grumbled so strongly it felt as if I had an inner earthquake.
"That's one angry tiger-turtle you got there" Heng added, pointing at my stomach; "Big deal, today's payday, and besides, I am actually in a somewhat good mood, I had a dream..." I answered him happily, trying to hide the pain from the bump.
"You also dreamed with Akira!?" Heng answered excitedly, grabbing both of my shoulders, shaking them with enthusiasm
"Err...no?" I answered nervously; "...Hey, wait a second, what did you dream about her!?" "I eh..." Heng mumbled, turning red in embarrassment
...that was one good dream- Heng thought, remembering how he was dressed as the Earth King, sitting on his palace, and Akira walked into his room, with a giant bowl of spiced rice and other exotic food...oh and Heng had strong bear paws for some reason. He didn't know and didn't want to find out why his subconscious thought it would be a good time to make a dream like that, but...
"It was a good one" Heng added, daydreaming without blinking, creeping me out.
"Well, we all had a good night sleep, so I guess this day won't be so bad after all, who knows how lucky we can get?" I tried to be optimistic.
"Ayeeep...that was some really tasty milk by the way."
"Well sorry for the trouble, but here..." Heng pulled out a couple of coins from his pockets; "I'm sure the guards won't miss these...go and get some good grub after work, my trait" He added, smiling
A few minutes later, I had already packed my clothes and prepared myself for a full day's forth of work; Heng and I walked towards our work places until we had to split up at the crossroads; he'd go for the mine uphill; I'd go for the factory near the ocean.
But when I got there, I saw a huge crowd of my fellow workers stranded outside the entrance, yelling at the guards who hadn't even opened the doors.
I managed to get a hold of my dad; his height and long beard were very different than those of the other puny workers; "What's happening dad?!" I asked deeply concerned; "I don't know son, they're not letting us through!" he answered, staring at the entrance.
"COME ON, ITS PAYDAY, LET US IN!" One of my fellow workers yelled, receiving back up yelling from the other workers. When we saw that the guards weren't responding at our threats, the worker grabbed a stone and aimed it at them, when suddenly, the commotion stopped.
I jumped, trying to look above the taller workers and saw some sort of new manager come out of the entrance; I knew he was important, he was wearing the elite guard uniform, which had already been decorated by medals given by the King; but, I had never seen him before, he looked much younger than any of the other managers I've ever known!
He took his Guard hat off and revealed his surprisingly young face...I couldn't believe myself for what I was seeing...his long face, large ears and dark eyes fit the description of...
"I am Avatar Tetsuo, this town's new Manager and mayor" He said with a decisive tone of voice; "Why is this factory shut down!?" My father yelled out.
"Because our king has finally managed to import Fire Nation technology, allowing us to replace...nearly 650 employees with machinery" He answered.
"BUT, today was payday, couldn't he at least give us our monthly 12 copper pieces!?" my dad argued.
"YEAH, WE ALL HAVE FAMILIES, WE NEED FOOD!"
"Do not worry; King Hiroto has been kind enough to set up a new workplace for everyone back in town and your pay will be raised if you apply for work"
"Oh, and what will we work on? Chimney sweeping, Taking care of his pets, food poisoning tasting for him? No thanks I frankly prefer swimming to the North Pole and make myself a new life!" my dad taunted, which made quite a few workers laugh.
"Oh no, you scumbags aren't honorable enough to take care of Hiroto's pets; we're setting up a new set of barracks!"
"And what exactly makes you think, that we want to become soldiers and die out there, pachyderm ears?" my dad taunted; "As far as I see it, this isn't our war!"
Tetsuo's face twitched angrily at the insult Iroh made of his ears; "Because if you don't..." He spoke, staring at us with a really disturbing smile before inhaling heavily, raising his fists and then slamming them to the ground while he released his breath, creating this shockwave of air that I had never seen before, which grabbed us like an ocean wave, and threw us many feet into the air and away from him.
"I will personally put an end to every deserter and traitor in the most painful way you could imagine!" He yelled, running at an astonishing speed towards my father. He stood up and tried to block his face with his arms, but the Avatar was too fast, and he slammed his elbow on Iroh's neck grabbing, throwing him onto the ground grasping for air; "HAVE MY WORDS BEEN CLEAR TO YOU; YOU WORTHLESS WORM!?" The Avatar stood above my father, yelling down at him with rage
"Ugh...Y-YES...!" My father answered in between desperate gurgles.
Tetsuo smiled, "You're lucky it wasn't lethal..." He mumbled as he simply walked back into the factory with his hands on his back.
I ran towards my dad and helped him stand up; "Are you okay? Can you breathe!?" I asked concerned; "Yeah...*Cough* I'll survive..." He answered me, glaring angrily at the Avatar as he disappeared within the factory; "come on, let's get out of here and home...we're no longer needed here"
A few minutes later...
The Avatar entered the Manager's office of the factory; having a hard time hiding his smirk; ; "Was I helpful?" He asked when he closed the squeaky door behind him
There was a man sitting behind the manager's desk, he didn't turn around to talk to the Avatar face-to-face, he was simply staring out of the window and down to the workers that walked back home; instead, he answered with an oddly muffled deep voice; "It was...surprising indeed...I have never seen air bending before"
"I can do far more than that...but I do have a slight problem..." The Avatar answered disappointed, looking down at the floor.
"Everyone does...what is yours?" the mysterious muffled man asked
"I have yet to master my Firebending, and I've yet to learn anything about Earthbending...I have heard rumors that there's one man in this forsaken town that is the most amazing Fire bender in the world, and if I am to help you, I need your help finding him, and make him teach me" The Avatar explained.
The man stood quiet for a few seconds, which generated some insecurity on the Avatar. "I'll do anything, sir"
"You may find this legendary Fire bender...but you must join my side of the struggle in this war and allow me to follow my own will, to deliver justice and order in my Kingdom as I see fit" the man answered.
"You have my Avatar promise that your Kingdom shall dominate the continent, I see in you and your forces the chance to restore order to this world...you have my full support" The Avatar bowed, even if Hiroto didn't turn around to see him.
"Head back into town...you know what you must do for me...we're losing this war faster than a stone falling from the sky...we need more men"
"You won't mind if I add my personal quest to the recruitment, right?"
"Not at all Avatar...finding a hiding Firebending master would actually be...rather helpful...just make sure he stays loyal to me and to my side of the battlefield..."
"That won't be a problem..."
"I believe it will...if he's as good as you say, showing off your powers isn't going to bring him out, or keep him in line for good"
"I have my methods..."
For the collective works of the author, go here.