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|The Fallen Remembered|
Book 2: War
August 18th, 2013
John questions himself after Eve's death.
"Get me some adrenaline, we're loosing her!" shouted one of the medics as he worked furiously on Eve. The side of the waterbender's head where the bola had stuck was several different shades of blue and black. Korra and Leon appeared alongside, studying the situation for a moment before Korra went to work alongside the medic.
But it didn't take much for her to feel Eve's life force fading away. Even with her and the medic working at the same time, it would only delay the inevitable. Gunshots suddenly rang out, causing both her and Leon to snap toward the source of the noise. Orange flashes of light lit up a nearby doorway, as if to show that this was where the shots had come from.
"John!" Korra shouted, realizing that this was where he had disappeared to. She dropped what little bit of water she had been using and began to scramble for the doorway. But a strong arm rapped around her middle, stopping her and lifting her into the air slightly. She fought hard against it, trying to break free and reach the doorway.
"No No lass, I can't let you do that," Leon said, struggling to keep a hold on her.
"Let me go!" She drove her elbow into his ribs, but the Irishman's hold only tightened.
"Korra, Korra! You saw the look in his eyes, he's rampant!"
"I don't care, I have to get to him!" She drove her elbow into him again, and this time she broke free. Korra stumbled a bit before regaining her footing and running for the door again. But a sudden gust of wind slammed into her feet, causing her to fall and land face down. Before she could react, Leon had pounced on top of her, pinning her to the street.
"Dammit Korra listen to me. He-will-kill-you, do you understand? Until he comes out of it, John's no better then a rabid coyote," Leon said, almost angry and pleading with her at the same time. Finally, she stopped struggling and looked helplessly toward the doorway.
The darkness of the warehouse was a thick soupy black. Five Equalist survivors were crouched behind a small set of wooden crates. One of them was holding a flashlight for another as he applied bandages to a third's leg. The gunfire from within the warehouse had taken them by surprise, as they thought that they had escaped without being followed.
"Who are you? What do you want?" the leader called out into the blackness. His voice echoed out around the warehouse.
"I am the ghost that hides in the night," came John's reply, his own voice seemingly coming from everywhere. A bola suddenly rapped around the throat of the Equalist holding the flashlight. The bulky light source bounced on the floor, illuminating the Equalists as the man holding it was drug away into the shadows.
A blood curdling scream came from shadows, followed only by silence. Reacting quickly, one of the Equalists kicked away the flashlight in an effort to hide their position. The sound of a switch being thrown echoed off of the walls, followed closely by the sound of power winding up. To their rear, flood lights after flood lights began to light up the warehouse, creating a clear barrier between light and dark.
As the line approached them, they watched as the body of their comrade was illuminated. He was hanging from one of the lamps by the bola that had drug him away, and a clear stab wound was present on his chest. They looked on at the body in both shock and horror.
"People like you disgust me. You blame the actions of a few on many, and as a result you hunt and kill innocents. This makes you no better then the ones who started you on this path." The wounded Equalist turned and looked back toward the entrance they had come in. There, standing before the wall at the end of the warehouse, was John. His pistol was holstered, as were his swords.
"And so, those who work in the dark have been brought to the light to answer for their sins," he said. The Equalists stood and faced the lone gunslinger, readying their weapons in order to attack. One of them threw their bola, aiming to take out John's legs. But John raised his hand as if he was ordering them to stop.
The bola suddenly froze, as if time had stopped. A shimmering, dark blue aurora surrounded the weapon. John then lowered his hand, causing the bola to clatter to the floor.
"My move then." With that, he forced his open hand outward. A ball of air, almost exactly like the one that contained the bola, erupted from his palm and raced across the warehouse almost faster then the eye could comprehend. It slammed into the chest of the Equalist that had thrown the bola, sending him flying across the room and slamming into the far wall.
Drawing his swords, John let loose a spine chilling battle cry. One filled with hate, anger, and pain. He then charged the Equalists, screaming the whole way. The Equalist leader charged as well, closing the distance so as to use his chi blocking. But John was more than ready for this. He sliced his blades across the man's chest before kicking him away.
The remaining Equalists formed a defensive line, trying their best to even the odds which had turned so sharply against them. John took a breath before he raised both hands, causing the two uninjured Equalists to lift into the air with their bodies immobilized. He brought both of his hands together before he forced them outward. The resulting action had the two men slam into each other in midair before being thrown across the room.
With the last Equalist clawing to get away, John twirled his blades and began to advance on the man. Usually, John showed mercy to the wounded. But the Rampancy had taken control of his body, leaving his mind to watch as he ended the last man's life.
The morning air had a cold bite to it. Wind buffered against a small procession that marched solemnly through the Refugee Borough. John had recovered from the previous night's Rampancy. But the memories of it haunted him. He had ordered Leon and others to not allow Korra to see what he had done. She was one of the few people he had left that held dear to his heart, and he didn't want her to see the horror he could cause.
A small flurry of snow was picked up with the wind as the leaders of the possession sat the pine coffin they had been carrying down on a pair of supports. In all Fifty Four coffins lined the square where they had gathered. Many of them had a cross on the lid, others had a Star of David or an Islamic Crescent, showing the faith of the person contained inside.
"Today, we send our fallen brothers and sisters home with our hearts heavy and our eyes filled with tears. We pray to whatever God or Spirit lords over the Twelve Universes and the space between, that peace for all worlds will come swiftly. As for our fallen, we remember them for their courage, and their sacrifice to end this war," said Leon in his speech as he stood at the center, presiding over the ritual.
Standing at attention, the young airbender snapped a crisp military salute, followed closely by almost all those in attendance. A short line of men and women snapped their rifles and preformed a salute.
Looking on from the back of the crowd, John felt like his heart was made of lead. He blamed himself for every single person that lay in a coffin on this cold morning. Thoughts crept into his mind, questions as to if there was anything more he could have done in order to save them.
With each shot in the salute, he felt like a knife was put through his heart as his mind argued over the guilt.
"It's all your fault! They died because of you!"
"Casualties of War, there was nothing I could do."
"A War YOU started!"
"I did everything I could to prevent this war!"
"YOU DID NOTHING!"
"Lin came to me for help, what was I suppose to do? Turn my back on my friends?"
"You could have walked away, or done it yourself! Left the rest of the Borough out of it like you promised! This is not your world to fight for!"
"THIS IS MY WORLD TO FIGHT FOR!"
"You're an orphan, an outcast kid with a gun who gets others killed for his benefit."
"I am a kid trying to survive in a harsh life."
"Make excuses all you want, you can't escape the fact that YOU'RE A KILLER!"
"What must Korra think of you? She doesn't see a soldier fighting for justice, she sees a man who will kill and send others to their death for your benefit."
"It doesn't matter what Korra thinks. I'm keeping her away from the fighting by waging this war."
"Is that what you told yourself every time Eve begged to go along on a raid?"
"What were you thinking? Eve was a medic, not a trooper. And you let her fight anyway."
"She was an IRA trained guerilla. A skilled marksmen with a handgun and master waterbender."
"She hadn't fired a gun in three years. And she hadn't used her bending in a harmful manner in two. Tenzin would have been a better fighter!"
"The truth is you weren't thinking. You let your confusion over Korra cloud your judgment, AND YOU GAVE IN TO HER BEGGING WHEN YOU KNEW IT WAS WRONG! YOU MIGHT AS WELL HAVE PUT THE GUN AGAINST HER TEMPLE AND PULLED THE TRIGGER YOURSELF!"
"It's not your fault," came Korra's voice. She had appeared next to him and placed her gloved hand on his arm.
"There had to have been something more. Something that I could have corrected and saved their lives," he said as he wiped away tears that had been forming in his eyes.
"You did everything you could to try and save them, you are as much to blame as everyone else here."
"I'm not cut out for this Korra. I'm eighteen years old, I'm suppose to be starting out my life not leading a group of refugees in a war." Korra moved her hand up his shoulder.
"You can do this John. I know you can," she said reassuringly. John looked her in the eye, and nodded slowly before he made his way over to Eve's coffin. Her body had been placed next to her brother's, but John ignored his rival, the man he had been forced to kill.
He had to let her go, even though his heart screamed that it did not want to.
"This is Evelyn Collins. She was a girl from Belfast, Ireland. Her favorite color was blue, her favorite flower was the lily. She was an inspiration, a beacon to those lost in the dark. And I loved her. Many of you knew her, and knew what great kindness and compassion she was capable of. Some amongst you may wish to return home with our loved ones here, I can't say that I blame you and I won't do anything to try and stop you. But as for me, I am going to stay and fight, finish what was started here. Because I believe that is what she would want me to do."
With that, he pulled a small white lily from his coat pocket and placed it on the coffin. He whispered a few words over it, gently kissed the wood, and turned away with his resolve sealed. Korra was right, he could lead them through this war. But he would need the strength of his friends to do it, and he knew that he had it, without any need to ask.
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