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The nineteenth chapter of Book Two of
|Twin Towers, Part 1: Successor|
July 2, 2011
Team Avatar divides when Sierra prepares to move in with her Father. Meanwhile, Keith leaves for San Francisco to meet up with Jacque.
The shrill alarm pierced the silent, peaceful air, rousing one of the room's two slumbering occupants. Leah hit the snooze button on the alarm softly, so as to not arouse the other person still fast asleep. Groggily, she quietly tiptoed into the bathroom and freshened up. She emerged a minute later, dressed in a blue T-shirt, jeans, a light jacket and tennis shoes.
Leah went again into the main area of the room and stared at Sierra, reassuring herself she was still slumbering. After confirming that she hadn't awoken her, she walked to the nightstand, grabbed her key to the room, and walked to the door. Leah opened it gently, cringing when a small squeaking sound penetrated the air.
Leah looked back at Sierra, relieved that she hadn't stirred from the sound. More carefully, she opened the door further, just enough for her to slip out of the room. Leah closed the door gently behind her, stopping to make sure it was locked. Free of the need to be silent, Leah walked down the almost empty hall casually, her feet barely making a sound on the plush, expensive carpet.
She arrived at the elevator and selected the button to summon it. Leaning against the wall adjacent to the elevator door, Leah waited patiently for the elevator to come, tapping her foot gently on the floor. A minute later, the elevator came, empty of any occupants. Leah walked inside and pushed the bottom for the lobby. The elevator gently lurched and Leah felt the sensation of rapid descent.
A "ding!" announced Leah's arrival to the lobby as the two cool, metal doors slid open to allow her exit. Leah's eyes flickered to see if Hubert was at the concierge desk. Empty. Leah sighed and walked out slowly, taking in the lobby's deep reds and vibrant wood that made it famous. The lobby was fully illuminated despite the darkness still present outside, and Leah felt extremely cozy just standing inside, feeling warm; secure; safe.
Pushing this aside in favor of her goal, she walked through the lobby and out the front door. The street was not as full as it usually was, but pedestrians and the occasional car still passed by. Turning to the north, Leah walked up the sidewalk and turned again to the right, entering the Austin J. Tobin plaza. Though she had seen it many times on her way to training, she still gasped at its beauty.
Flowers and homely umbrella tables were laid out on the edges of the plaza, close to a few food vendors and restaurants. Pink and gray granite stones made up the pavement, occasionally interrupted by a pillar with a loud speaker from which gentle music played. An immense fountain dominated the center of the plaza. In the fountain's center stood a golden sculpture of a sphere, obviously the highlight of the plaza.
The North Tower stood directly to Leah's left side, but Leah was always glad to take a moment to take in the plaza's beauty. Satisfied for now, Leah walked to the North Tower's south side and entered the lobby. It was almost completely empty except for a few workers and receptionists. Leah walked past the receptionist's desk, pressing the button to summon one of the many elevators.
"Good morning Ms. Sanchez." one of the receptionists said absently. She sat in a cheap chair staring at a computer, mindlessly taking a drink from an "I Love New York" coffee mug.
"Morning." Leah replied back.
The bell sounded and the elevator arrived. Leah walked in and pressed the button for the 78th floor sky lobby. The elevator lurched upwards at an incredible pace as they passed floor after floor. Leah felt grateful yet again for the express elevator. Without it, she would have to change elevators and climb six flights of stairs. With this, she'd only have to change once and climb the remaining floors to the roof.
Leah waited for a moment for the elevator to arrive at their destination. They arrived a few minutes later and Leah emerged on the sky lobby. Column after column of the narrow windows lined the walls, giving a small view in each of the magnificent city below. There were only a few tourists admiring the view, but Leah passed by them as well as she moved to another elevator.
Within seconds it arrived, and Leah pushed the button for the 107th floor. As the elevator ascended, Leah checked her watch, a gift from Keanu. 6:22 a.m. Leah paced around the confined space impatiently until the elevator finally arrived. She exited quickly and bypassed the few office workers present on the floor. None gave her any attention as she opened a heavy door, emerging in the stairwell.
The stairwell was completely made of cement and was lit with fluorescent lighting, a few lights flickering here and there. Leah walked to the stairs and took them two at a time. She barely broke a sweat and was only breathing a little harder when she arrived on the 109th floor. She opened the door and was blasted with the usual sound of the electrical workings powering the large antenna on the roof.
Leah walked to a large door and tried it, not surprised to find it locked. She placed her hand on the lock and moved her fingers in small, barely noticeable fidgets. The lock clicked and the door opened to her, revealing a flight of stairs. She took the stairs three at a time and emerged on the roof. The antenna dominated most of the space offered by the elevated platform of the roof. Unlike most of times she had come, there were no airbenders training or flying.
Leah walked to the edge of the platform and stared at the east horizon. An immense expanse of city buildings and housing filled her view of the east. The far distance was barely visible. The sky and city was still dark, but the horizon was slowly turning pink and orange. The air slowly started to warm up from the morning chill. Leah checked her watch again. 6:37.
Only a minute or two now. Leah thought to herself.
The coloring of the sky and the light in the city grew stronger as each second passed. A split second later, a blinding light radiated from the horizon, revealing the thin, blue line of the Atlantic Ocean in the distance. The roof and the upper floors of the Twin Towers glowed with a lovely orange and yellow as the Sun's rays hit them first.
Leah sighed, letting her body take in the warm rays and the shine of the radiant sun as it slowly but surely rose farther above the city that never sleeps. The sky was clear, barely a cloud in sight. There was a gentle breeze, but it was generally warm despite it. It couldn't have been a more perfect Tuesday morning.
The clock hit 8:15 and the alarms shrilled for the second time that morning. Sierra slowly stirred, rolling over and entangling herself in her sheets as she slapped the snooze button. She sighed, letting the breath roll out of her slowly as her muscles started to power up again. After waiting for a moment, staring at the ceiling, Sierra stood up, stretching her arms and pushing her blankets off.
Sierra glanced at the bed next to her. Empty. "No surprise," Sierra thought to herself. She slid off the bed and went into the bathroom, emerging a few minutes later in a yellow T-shirt and shorts, hair in a ponytail, and sandals. In her arms she carried the pajamas she slept in. She walked across the room to a waiting suitcase, stuffed with her few possessions.
Sierra knelt by the suitcase and opened it. She crammed in her pajamas, not taking care to fold them as she struggled to fit them in. As soon as she managed to encase them, she pushed against the lid and zipped it closed. She stood up and looked at the room, eyes scanning every detail and trying to store it in her memory.
Sierra walked across to the door connecting her room to the one adjacent. She knocked gently three times.
"Keith?" she called out.
"Come in." replied his voice, slightly muffled.
Sierra walked into his room and sat down one of the beds. A second later, Keith walked out of the bathroom, dressed in a red long-sleeve shirt, jeans, and tennis shoes.
"What's the suitcase for?" Keith asked.
"I'm moving in with my dad."
"Does Leah know?"
"I offered her to move in with us, but she said she needed time to think about it."
"You ready to go?" Sierra asked.
"Do you know when you'll be back?"
"Jacque didn't say. I'd say a week. Probably not more than two."
"You want me to drive you?" asked a grinning Sierra.
"No thanks, Neil got me a cab." Keith laughed.
"Fine." Sierra sighed.
Keith moved across the room and grabbed a small suitcase.
"Need help?" Sierra offered.
"No, this is it. What about you? Do you need help getting your stuff to the lobby?"
"Nah, I'm not leaving until 8:30."
"Where is Leah?" Keith asked, opening the door to the hallway.
"Up on the roof, I'd suspect. She loves watching the sunrise from up there."
"Can't blame her. It's a beautiful sight."
Sierra followed Keith out the door into the hallway. Keith closed the door, making sure it was locked before the two set out down to the elevator.
Keanu breathed in deeply. feeling the chilled wind whip at his long brown hair as he flew freely. He looked down at the sprawled out city below him, an enormous mish-mash of grey and white buildings that seemed to lean upwards into the infinite sky. Using the smallest, almost nonexistent air currents, he tipped his white-winged glider to the left, veering in a wide angle to the north.
"It's beautiful, isn't it?"
Leah jumped, banging her head against the hard wood to the side of the narrow window. Neil grimaced and gave an apologetic look as Leah rubbed her forehead.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to startle you." Neil apologized.
"No worries Mr. Levin."
"So what were you looking at?"
"Everything." Leah sighed. "I wish the windows were bigger though."
"Me too. Either way, it's an amazing view, isn't it?"
Neil walked to the window next to her and stared as well.
"You could just stay here forever looking, and you'd never be able to take it all in." Leah stated.
"You're right. I've worked here for years and I still can't get past the view."
"I don't know how I could ever leave."
"Then don't." Neil simply replied.
"I'm going to have to eventually."
"Why? You're safe here, and you can master firebending here. Why would you need to leave?"
"I don't think it's really safe for me to stay in one place for so long."
"But why take the risk of leaving? You're safe from the BDA and the Elite here. No one can hurt you or Sierra or Keith. You're surrounded by friends and people who love you. Would you really want to leave all that?"
"If it means keeping you and everyone else safe from harm, then yes."
"You don't need to worry about us, Leah."
"I know. I just do."
"I don't know. It's weird to feel safe. To be safe. We've spent the last nine months on the run. It's just a little different for me to be in a place considered untouchable."
"You're not used to being safe?" Neil tried.
"As depressing as that sounds, yes."
"Don't be worried."
"I know I shouldn't. I just don't want anyone else to get hurt because they were around me."
"It's not your fault."
"I know. Everyone's tried to tell me that."
"But you still believe it?" Neil guessed.
"A bit. Father Kimble helped a lot, but it just all comes flooding back. It's just this biting feeling that's always tugging at me, telling me that everything that's wrong with the world is my fault."
"And why do you feel that way?"
"Because so many people have been lost because of me."
"The people at Xylia." Leah remembered.
"Leah, you can't blame yourself for what happened at Xylia. You just ran into the situation at the right time to save someone. You can't pin the blame on yourself for the attack."
"Then why do I feel so guilty for it? For Keith?"
"It's not guilt Leah; only sadness for the uncontrollable. You had no idea what was happening, and therefore had no way of stopping it. It was a tragedy, yes, but it was completely out of your power to stop it. The important thing is that you were there to save someone's life. And I know he'll be grateful for that for the rest of his life."
"Don't worry about it Leah. Things will work out. Trust me."
"Huh. That's what I told Sierra."
"Yeah." Neil chuckled nervously.
"Something wrong?" Leah asked, turning to face him.
"I'm supposed to be going to get her about now."
"Then what are you talking to me for? Go and get her!"
"I feel bad about saying this, but I kind of don't want to."
"Why not? What's the matter with you?" Leah yelled, attracting the attention of the local workers.
"I don't know. I guess you could say I'm nervous." Neil admitted.
"How could you be nervous? You finally get to spend time with Sierra again!" Leah encouraged.
"It's been so long."
"You'll be fine. How about you go get her and we grab a bite at Windows on the World?"
"That sounds great. Do you want to come with me to get her?"
"No. I think I'll stay here and just admire the view. I'll be fine."
"Alright then. We'll meet you back here?" Neil checked.
"Okay. I'll be back in about 20 minutes. If you need anything, call. Okay?"
"Yeah. Now go before I get too hungry!" Leah laughed.
"Alright." Neil said, smiling.
The "ding!" sound rang out and the elevator doors lurched open. Sierra and Keith walked out onto the plush carpeting, each carrying a small suitcase. The two kids trotted down the stairs, stopping on the last step. They looked expectantly at the doors leading out to the street, but no one was there.
"Where's your dad?" Keith asked, looking around the lobby.
"I don't know." Sierra said.
A man in a cheap suit walked in, a chauffeurs cap on.
"That must be your ride." Sierra said. She put down her suitcase and hugged him, trying to hold back a small tear.
"You going to be alright?" Sierra asked.
"I'll be fine. Jacque, Gabe, and Ryan will be waiting. I'm a little worried about meeting the new people though."
"You'll do fine. They'll just be happy to see someone who knows what they've gone through."
"I know. Thanks Sierra."
A loud "ahem" rang out hoarsely from the chauffeur. Sierra glared at the chauffeur.
Sierra sighed. "I guess you had better get going."
"Yeah." Keith said, picking up his bag.
"Good luck. We'll be happy to see you when you get back."
"Me too. Tell Leah I said bye." Keith said, almost with a small look of regret etched on his face.
He walked over to the chauffeur and talked with him quietly. A moment later, the driver picked up Keith's suitcase and lead him to the doors.
"Bye!" Keith called out.
"Bye!" Sierra replied.
Keith left out the door and disappeared in the throng of pedestrians outside. Sierra sat down on the stairs, her suitcase beside her as she stared at the doors expectantly.
Keith walked down the familiar walkway of Newark International Airport. He pushed past people as he tried to make his way to a sparsely inhabited waiting area. He persisted, sometimes having to roughly shove them out of the way. After a few awkward moments, he finally made it to the waiting area for his flight.
It was emptier than he thought it would be. Close to forty people were waiting in an area meant for more than a hundred. A few gave glances to the young passenger, but returned to their business shortly afterwards. Keith spotted a young man in glasses staring out a window and sat down next to him.
"Hello." Keith said.
"Hi." he quietly replied. He stared out the window with an almost empty gaze.
"How are you?"
"Is there some reason you're talking to me?" he coldly replied, not sparing a glance to Keith.
Keith was taken aback.
"No, just trying to be friendly." he slowly replied.
"Pretty brave for such a young child."
The man gave no further response and kept staring out the window. Sensing defeat, Keith stood up and grabbed his suitcase.
No response. Keith walked away, a small sense of worry and a twinge of fear in his heart. He glanced at a watch given to him by Neil. 8:20 a.m. As if on cue, a voice announced on a static filled intercom.
"United Airlines Flight 93 for San Francisco will now begin boarding."
Neil walked through the busy floor, the open elevator in sight ahead of him.
Neil stopped in his tracks and turned to face a young man with potent acne scars and the stubby beginnings of a beard.
"Yes?" he said, impatience creeping into his voice.
"Security Command Center on the 22nd floor wants to see you."
"Can this wait? I have an important meeting."
"I'm afraid not, sir."
Neil sighed and followed the young man to the elevator.
A small tap hit Sierra's shoulder, causing her to jump and squeal with fright. Looking back and seeing it was only Hubert, she relaxed.
"I apologize Miss Levin. I did not mean to frighten you." Hubert explained.
"No worries Hubert." Sierra replied.
Hubert sat down beside her on the stairs facing the door. "May I ask what you're waiting for?"
His eyes moved to the suitcase. "Are you moving in with him?"
"Yeah." Sierra said quietly.
Hubert noticed the tone in Sierra's voice. "Is something wrong?"
"No." Sierra defended.
"You don't sound excited."
"Then what's wrong?"
"I don't know. I guess I'm a little nervous."
"How could you be nervous? You get to spend time with your dad again!"
"I know, it's just...all these years I've had this mindset that I hate my dad; that I'm furious at him for abandoning me and for being a coward and for not being there for me. To have that change just after a few months, it's just a little much."
Hubert patted Sierra on the back. "Do not worry. You want to be with him again, right?"
"And you love him, right?"
"And you know he loves you, and he would do anything to care for you?"
Sierra hesitated for a moment. "Yeah." she finally replied.
"Then what is there to worry about?
Sierra sighed. "I guess you're right."
"Then you know you'll be fine, right?"
"Yes." Sierra said with certainty.
"Now when is he supposed to be here?"
Sierra glanced at an expensive watch she had gotten for her birthday. 8:40 a.m. "He said around 8:30."
"Want me to wait with you?" Hubert offered.
"That'd be great." Sierra smiled.
Leah was in the same place she was when Neil left to get Sierra. Staring out the thin window at the endless horizon of building after building. She found it hard to imagine that this seemingly infinite expanse of metal and glass and wood occupied only a small pinprick of the Earth's surface. Could it really be so? Could all of this be only a minute portion of all the world has to offer?
Leah scowled at this train of thought. What if life is like this too? Only a small, insignificant part of everything that is going on. Were there people living out there that lived their lives without anyone knowing, without making a difference? Doomed to die with absolutely no one knowing that they even existed in the first place?
It was already so. Generation upon generation of people have already come and gone, and we only know about the smallest fraction of them. The rest lived normal, quiet lives that we never hear about. What about the others? What about the people who lived in those times? Is it so fair to all of them when we only hear about the trials, cares, and accomplishments of the great? Is that what would happen if I were normal? Leah worried.
"No." a voice in her head rang out.
Leah was taken aback at the sudden outburst from the depths of her subconscious. But it was true.
People don't necessarily need to live lives that get their names in history books. Yes, they are all great, but the people living around them were important too. Their impact may not have lived to survive the test of time, but they made an impact on the people around them. Whether it was by the way they lived or the things they did, they were remembered in the hearts of those who knew them.
It wouldn't matter if I wasn't the Avatar. I'm not normal. Whether I was the Avatar or not, I would never be normal. I would be me. Just the way I am. I don't have to be a powerful bender for me to make a difference in the world. Just look at Sierra. She lives a normal life without bending in her blood. Yet she makes such a difference in the lives that she touches. Without her, I wouldn't even be here.
A person doesn't need to be different for their life to mean something. It was through the choices they made, the people they helped, the memories they made that determined how their life turned out. Sure, the lucky few made it on to be known by everyone. But it doesn't need to be so. If you're content with your life, then that should be all that matters.
Leah smiled, closing her eyes to the city below to take in her thoughts.
Minutes passed with no disturbances, though Leah could hear footsteps passing behind her as the workers of the floor arrived. A slight tap hit her shoulder, and Leah opened her eyes. A woman with an Indian skin tone and brown hair in a bun stood behind her.
"Are you Leah Sanchez?" she asked, no accent to her voice.
"Yes." Leah replied, wondering what could be the reason for this.
"There's a phone call for you."
"Okay?" Leah said suspiciously.
Leah followed the woman to a nearby office with many of the narrow windows. A phone sat down on a small wooden desk, speaker down. The woman left, leaving Leah alone in the office. She picked up the phone, leaning against the woman's desk.
"You disappointed me Leah."
Leah's heart stopped, her breath coming out in one quick, short gasp.
"How did you..." Leah stuttered.
"Come now Leah, you know me better than that." the cool voice of the Leader rang out. "I have eyes everywhere."
"You know Leah," he paused. "I would've assumed that you had gotten the message by now. Chicago, Uluru, Xylia. But no, I guess you just don't get it. We don't stop Leah. Once you're in our sights we will never stop hunting you until you are ours or you are dead. Not that that matters now."
"What do you mean?"
"You've become too powerful for us to pursue. We have no reason to try to recapture you now. Hopefully your successor will be more cooperative."
The call dropped.
- This chapter was the easiest to write out of the three in the finale.
- This chapter was written before Learning to Fly. Thus when the Mexican family was introduced, this chapter and the finale was tweaked to include them.
For the collective works of the author, go here.
|Book One: Glass|
|The Message - Leah - The Glow - BDA - Gone - Uluru - Revealed - The Colonies - Brethren - The Survivors - Joel's Old Friend - Alice Springs - School - Sierra - Discovery - Bracken - Visiting the Past - Goodbyes - Escape Part 1: Shards of Glass - Escape Part 2: Confrontation|
|Book Two: Smoke|
|The Outside - Questions - Flight - The Rogues - Forewarned - Keith - The Exiles - Forfeit - Choice - Consequence - Legacy Part 1: Avatar Joel - Legacy Part 2: Avatar Aang - Open Arms - Father - Learning to Fly, Part 1: The Apprentice - Learning to Fly, Part 2: The Master - A Leap of Faith - Negotiations - Twin Towers, Part 1: Successor - Twin Towers, Part 2: The Black Plume of Smoke - Twin Towers, Part 3: The Burden of Atlas|
|Book Three: Storm|
|His Dark Materials - Wounds - Rest in Peace - Somewhere Only We Know - The Mistress - Smoke and Mirrors|