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The fourth chapter of Book Two of
October 14, 2010
Leah and Sierra find the waterbending colony with surprising results.
Sierra woke up slowly, shivering in the chill winter air coming off of Lake Ponchartrain. Seeing the door of the plane open, she stumbled outside to find Leah on the shore, her back to Sierra.
"You okay? You've been out since we crossed into California, are you feeling alright?" Leah asked, her back still to her.
"I'm fine, just a long trip," Sierra stated, rubbing her eyes and shivering to herself. "Where are we?"
"We're in a town called Mandeville."
"Why here? Isn't the colony in New Orleans?"
Leah pointed to an enormous road, stretching for miles on end across the lake.
"That's the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway. It stretches from north to south from here across the lake to New Orleans. Rose told me to find the colony we need to be here at precisely 9:00 p.m. The water benders check here for visitors every night. Once they come, they'll take us to the colony."
"What time is it now?"
"About 8:50. See that big fog near the center of the lake? That's probably them heading towards us now."
"So all we need to do is wait?"
Leah and Sierra went back to the plane, trying to escape from the cold.
"Leah? If Rose trained you in water bending, why are we here? Didn't you master it?"
"Rose trained me, but I only mastered the basics and half of the advanced level. For some strange reason, I got the feeling that there were some techniques that Rose was hiding from me; some dark secrets of water bending that she was deliberating hiding from me."
"And you came here to finish your training?"
"This is the last water bending colony. These are the only people left who can train me."
"Aren't there any other colonies?"
"I've only heard about colonies in the Americas. All of the colonies in Europe were wiped out by World War II, and I've heard nothing about Asia and Africa. But as far as I've heard, there's this water bending colony, and the air bending colony in New York."
"Is that it? Surely the BDA hasn't found all of them?"
"Who knows Sierra? There're bound to be those who are simply in hiding all by themselves. Not every bender goes to the colonies."
"But if there are benders who are completely safe, why is the BDA still trying to hunt them all down? What if benders found good uses for their abilities? What would happen then?"
"I don't know. Personally, I don't ever think the BDA would be able to accept that. They've done too much, invested so much in this, and they have their hearts and minds set so much in what they're doing that I don't think they'll be able to adapt to anything else."
"But what does the BDA have against benders?"
"They think that if benders were among normal society that the nations of the world would fight for our loyalty. As if they don't fight enough on their own though." Leah added with a touch of bitterness.
"And what do you have against the BDA?"
"It's nine, we better head to the beach," Leah interrupted, glad of an excuse to leave the conversation.
A massive fog was setting on the damp sand of the beach, obscuring Leah and Sierra's view of the city and the causeway. In the middle of the fog emerged a great cutter sailing ship, its pure blue sails outlined against the white. Three figures jumped off the deck of the boat, seemingly landing on the still water and walking towards them.
The lead figure, a middle-aged man, addressed the two girls.
"Who are you?" he said warningly, but with a gentle undertone.
"I am Leah Sanchez, and this is Sierra Levin. I am the Avatar, and I have come to seek refuge and water bending training under your masters," Leah said, her voice echoing in the damp air.
"Well, Avatar, I must say I am shocked to see you here. We have never heard any word of the Avatar traveling, especially to our colony. Who told you about us?"
"A water bender by the name of Rose. Do you know her?"
"Yes, we knew her before she was taken. Why has she sent you here?"
"I too was taken to the bending prison Uluru and.."
"You were taken to that forsaken place? How did you escape?"
"I found a way to use earth bending to bend the glass of the prison and escape using it."
"And surely the Leader confronted you, am I correct?"
"Yes, just as I left the prison."
"And you survived?" he said a little skeptically.
"Yes, I am talking to you aren't I?"
"Remarkable," he said, thinking to himself.
"So Rose trained me in water bending while I was at Uluru. She told me before I escaped that this was the only place to learn water bending, so I have come here to learn."
"Well Ms. Sanchez, I must say I am honored to be in your presence. However, I must see an example of your bending to prove you are here to learn."
Leah motioned for Sierra to back away as she walked to the edge of the lake. Extending her arms up and out, she motioned for five feet of lake around her to follow her arms, rising into the fog. Clenching her fingers into fists, the lake water she was manipulating froze with the damp air, creating a pillar of frozen ice that extended into the fog.
"Impressive. You are certainly worthy to come to the colony and learn from the mistress. But what of her?" he asked, pointing to Sierra.
"She is my friend and is accompanying me on my journey. The BDA is hunting her down as well for helping me."
"Very well. Come with us to the boat, we will take you to the colony."
The man turned his back to them and froze a thick ice path to the boat, creating stairs leading up the deck as well. Leah and Sierra took their things from the plane and carefully inched their way across the ice to the immense boat. They climbed up the stairs, one by one, finally reaching the deck of the wooden boat.
"I'm afraid we are going to have to get rid of your plane. Is it acceptable for us to destroy it?"
"Sierra?" Leah asked, storing her bags in a corner of the deck.
The lead man stood at the prow of the boat, looking out across the lake to the plane. In one precise move, he sucked all of the water out of a nearby jug and froze it into a small spear. Throwing it like a javelin, Leah watched as it soared out and precisely punctured the gas tank, a great explosion consuming the plane. Another few men then rushed out to the prow with the man and raised their arms elegantly upward, creating a great wave. The wave rushed out, destroying the ice path, smothered the fire, and dragged the plane into the lake.
"Wow, they're certainly good at what they do." Sierra pointed out.
"We do everything we can to avoid detection. You'll see our ultimate work when we get to the colony. By the way, my name is Bronson. I'm third in command of the Rogues."
"The Rogues?" Leah asked, confused.
"That's the name of the colony. We chose it as a symbol of our views and mission. We're here to survive. To fight back. We'll explain more later."
"Where is the colony?" Sierra asked Bronson.
The cutter ship sailed in the fog with the distinct shape of the causeway faintly visible as a shadow.
"Can't they see us?"
"It's nine at night and the causeway is 24 miles long. We travel with the fog to worry the drivers on the bridge to concentrate on where they're going. Usually we go by without one sighting. We're almost here anyway, so don't be shocked by what we're going to do okay?"
"Depends, what're you going to do?"
"Just wait please."
All the water benders present on deck gathered on the edges of the deck, facing the lake. They all threw their arms out simultaneously, the fog around them thickening to the point of only being able to see the boat. Moving their arms upward as one, a sheet of water began to rise around the boat, encasing it in a bubble. The bubble froze and the ship began to submerge beneath the lake. Before long, the keel of the boat was touching the bottom of the lake, with only the top of the mast still reaching above the water.
As if it were waiting for them, four walls of earth surrounded the ice bubble sealing itself at the tip as well. Leah and Sierra ventured to the sides, waiting for the next action to appear. On cue, a large hole appeared on the lake bed, draining the water in the box of earth. The water benders then melt the ice, draining it into the hole as well. The boat suddenly began to sink deeper still, the roof of the earthen box sinking into the lake.
A set of stairs appeared at the side of the boat, leading downward to the damp lake bed. Bronson beckoned them as he had two people pick up their bags. Leah and Sierra climbed down carefully to the lake bed, waiting for the rest of the water benders to arrive. Once they were all down, A tunnel appeared in the wall, darkness echoing down it. Bronson led them into the tunnel, walking a short distance before coming to another blank wall. A hole suddenly appeared and they walked through it, coming into an enormous yet low cavern.
The cavern led off for miles on each end though the ceiling was only about twelve feet tall. A single large track was laid in the center of the tunnel, looking almost like a train track. The hole behind them closed up again and they stood there waiting for a moment for something to happen.
"What is all this?" Leah asked.
"Our home. The causeway is made of two separate roads going up and down the length of the lake, with a seventy foot space between the two roads. Both roads all held up by hundreds of pillars. We connected the pillars on either side of the empty space into two separate walls, then lowered the floor here and made a roof to hold out the water. Then we constructed this track. We have a train that can transport us from this airlock to the base."
"That's ingenious. But how did you do it? You're all water benders." Sierra pointed out.
"There used to be an earth bending colony in Galveston, not too far from here. Three decades ago it was massacred by the BDA, and we took in the survivors."
"So you have earth and water benders here? What about air and fire?"
"There were no fire benders left for us to take in after the explosion in San Juan. And the air benders refuse to join us."
"Why so?" Leah asked curiously.
"Let's say they don't agree with all of our views and methods."
"Why wouldn't they? What is it that's made them so cross?" Sierra asked suspiciously.
"All together we have about four hundred living here at the colony." Bronson said, nervously changing the subject.
"So where is the base?"
"The train will take us to the base at the southern end of the causeway."
"Then why is the airlock here? Wouldn't it be easier to have it closer to the base."
"We have 24 miles to work with here. Having such a big space gives us an enormous place to hide our base. The actual colony is another twenty feet beneath us. The depth makes it so Seismic Sense is disabled. The colony is in a bigger tunnel just like this on a track just like this. This makes the base entirely mobile and untraceable. Because of this, we have lasted for twenty years without one BDA agent detecting us."
"Here comes the train."
A small earthen train came slowly rumbling down the track out of the darkness. Pushed by two earth benders, it rumbled to a stop at the airlock. Leah, Sierra, Bronson and the other water benders got onto the train, which was sparsely furnished with earthen benches. Once they were all on, the train shook as it took off at an incredible speed, rushing off through the tunnel.
"So the actual base is a train just like this?" Leah asked.
"Yes, just much, much bigger. This tunnel is about 70 feet wide, with the train about 20 feet wide and 500 feet long. The base tunnel is triple the width, with the actual train 400 feet wide and about 800 feet long."
"That's outstanding. But how do you defend a place this big? Surely someone would find a place this enormous sometime?" Sierra asked.
"We have access to the cameras on the causeway above. If we detect someone, we can close off a section of this tunnel, collapse it, flood it, anything necessary. We can also do the same for the lower level as well."
"Just on a bigger scale."
"That's right. You'll see soon enough, we're almost there."
The train slowly stopped at a wall of pure dirt and rock. They exited the train and watched as it rumbled back off to the north. As soon as it left, the ground beneath them began to sink slowly into earth. They waited for a few moments for the makeshift elevator to dive the twenty feet before emerging in a tunnel like the last, but immensely bigger. Three huge tracks lay on the floor of the tunnel, soon followed by an enormous train. They entered the cavities of the base and finally entered the colony. Leah and Sierra were surprised to see light bulbs working in the train.
"How do you have electricity down here?" Sierra asked.
"We have a generator. We can get food, supplies, fuel from New Orleans whenever we want. We also get air from a ventilation tunnel on the north side that comes out on the side of a mountain near Mandeville. If that is ever covered, we just make another. We are virtually self-sustaining in every way."
"Can you give us a tour of the place?" Leah asked.
"Of course. This whole thing is basically a building turned on its side and on train tracks. Here at the southern end, we have the loading dock, the generator, and we keep all the supplies here."
Leah, Sierra, and Bronson walked forward through a huge room filled to the brim with boxes of food and strangely, a box of army supplies. Putting it to the side, they walked past the room and emerged in a great cavern, lit with strange crystals.
"This is our training courtyard. It takes up 200 of the 800 foot length, basically a fourth of the base is all right here. Here we can improve our water and earth bending. Please come this way and we'll come to the barracks."
They walked through the training courtyard, avoiding the large scratches and gaps made by the earth benders as they entered a large room filled with hundreds of bunk beds and what looked like an eating area nearby.
"This is the barracks and the galley. We can fit all four hundred of our members plus extra. It's a little cramped, but it's efficient. This takes up another 450 of the 800 foot length. So far, along with the loading dock, we've had about 750 of the base covered."
"What's next then?" Sierra asked.
"Come with me and I can show you."
They walked through the barracks and went through a door, entering what looked like a tinted room. It was small, only 10 feet seemingly, with another door on the opposite side of the room.
"This is the mistress' and second in command's chambers. I cannot let you in, as only the mistress and second have the key to the door. This is where you wait if you are ever summoned by the mistress. Unfortunately, they are both away on what they deemed 'important business.' I'm sure they'd love to meet you as soon as they get back."
"This room isn't made of the same thing as the rest of the base. What is it?"
"It's just made of a special indestructible material. We take pride in being able to protect our mistress. Please follow me to the barracks and we will find you some beds."
Once Bronson had left through the door back into the barracks, Leah turned to Sierra.
"This all seems a little suspicious."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Bronson just keeps droning on and on about their 'mistress' and their love and protection for her. It also struck me as odd on how he changed the subject when we asked what their views and mission was, and that the air benders wouldn't join them."
"Should we leave?"
"Probably not. We don't want to offend or scare them. If we just leave now they'll think we're spies for the BDA. Best that we stay for a while, then we can go to New York."
"How? They destroyed the plane."
"We'll find a way. For now it'll just be best to stay here and get some training taken care of. But if it's at all possible, let's try to stay away from the mistress."
Bronson came back in from the barracks.
"Are you coming?"
For the collective works of the author, go here.