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The second chapter of Book Three of
January 6th, 2012
Word spreads around the prison that Kumara has escaped. The Leader discovers the limitations of his bending prowess as a result of his injury. Morgan investigates the destruction of a BDA brigade.
Lee flexed his hand slowly, watching the pink blotch on his skin tighten. The scar was still faintly discernible, but as tightly as he held his fist, his skin almost looked normal. Lee sighed and loosened his hand, rubbing it to fix the blood flow. The scar, a small pink mark that stretched across his index and middle fingers, was only one of the many that adorned his broken body.
The main commons area was deathly quiet and dark, given the late hour of the night. Lee sat in his favorite recliner. The fabric was a faded pink and severely beaten. He rubbed his hand over a large tear adorning the right armrest and sighed again. He closed his eyes and thought of Leah, when she had last come and he sat in that very chair, still broken, but given new hope at her appearance.
Then she was gone. Gone in such a burst of fury and power that the entire population of the complex stopped and watched in awe. They could see every move she made through the glass, several floors above them. When she finally was out of the prison, a mighty cheer erupted throughout the prison, only to be silenced minutes later by the enraged Leader.
The prison was put on immediate lockdown. Meals were suspended for two days. Residents were confined to their cells for two weeks. Training and parole were shut down altogether. The residents watched in fear for a month as the Leader went throughout the prison in blind fury, cursing under his breath and striking down any in his way, resident and Enforcer alike. Lee winced as he recalled an elderly Waterbender who had accidentally tripped the Leader. It had taken the Enforcers three weeks to get the bloodstains out.
When lockdown was finally released, the prisoners were apprehensive to leave, fearful that any action would further enrage the Leader. When he finally confined himself to the lower levels again, they gathered their courage and ventured out of their cells. Even with that newfound freedom, their existence was only worsened with the loss of parole and training. Residents cursed Leah's name for weeks while their fury burned quietly within them.
The months passed by slowly and without incident. It seemed that they were stuck in a daze, an endless cycle. Until she came. Kumara, the spawn of San Juan, the Leader's pet, the bane of Xylia. In the middle of the night, she had come and awaken Peter's old feelings from deep inside. And in a rush of fires and alarms, she had taken him away as well.
And so Lee sat alone, expecting the worse. As the alarms faded away, he expected to the see the Leader, in a worse rage than before. Even with that thought, the fear inside him was only a numb itch compared to before. The worse thing he could do was kill him, if not the entire Firebending block. Even so, they had already resigned themselves to their fates. Death would only be a favor to them compared to this miserable half existence.
A bead of sweat slowly traced its way down Morgan's face to his eyes. He winced at the stinging and, without realizing it, lost control of the boulder he had been bending. With a mighty crash and a scream, the rock dropped to the desert floor, crushing the leg of a nearby non-bender. Morgan sighed and walked over the rock, lifting it lazily with his arm.
The man continued to scream and thrash about the ground. Morgan took one look at the leg and knew it was beyond saving. Morgan lifted the boulder higher in the air. He stretched his arms out as if playing an accordion. The boulder shifted into a long plate of sandstone. Morgan took three steps to the left, the plate of rock following him. When the slate of rock was directly over the injured man, he released his control. Morgan sighed with relief as the screams finally stopped.
Morgan turned back to the work being done. As soon as Kumara and the freed resident had disappeared from the horizon, Morgan had summoned every Enforcer from the Earth Brigade and several nonbenders to assist in freeing the Leader. So far, the work had been slow. The explosion had taken a sizable chunk off of the cliff face. Even with twenty minutes of work, they had yet to free the Leader yet.
Finally, after another tense ten minutes of shifting the enormous pile of rubble, they found him. He lay, unconscious, in a small air pocket that had saved him from being crushed. The right sleeve and torso of his robe were soaked in blood. Morgan looked for the source of the bleeding, and was shocked to find that two of the Leader's fingers were missing.
Adam walked over to Morgan and looked down at the Leader's body.
"Take the men back inside." Morgan ordered.
Adam nodded and left, issuing orders to the men. Morgan knelt down and picked up the Leader in his arms. As the men ran back inside, Morgan slowly followed, blood trailing from the Leader's limp hand.
She knew deep inside that she couldn't keep it up for long. Flying on its own was tiring enough, but going full speed and carrying a full grown man had taxed Kumara greatly. Even with...no, they weren't a part of her anymore. Never again would she feel the point pierce her skin again. The crook of her elbow that now bore scars from so many injections started to tingle.
The desert flew by slowly beneath her, intermingled with the occasional mountain or small town. She knew not what direction she was flying, only that it was away from Uluru. From the moment that the monolith had disappeared from her view, Kumara had found herself unable to stop looking back for a glimpse of her pursuers. But they weren't there.
The man gazed across the lake at the sleeping colony. Even in the darkness of the approaching winter night, the buildings were easily discernible. Nestled among the high trees and bushes, the peninsula stretching into Mesaba Lake was the perfect hiding spot for the small colony of Free Benders. Even so, the BDA had found it.
The intelligence wasn't easy to come by. By luck, they had found two Free Bender soldiers prowling around the ruins of Xylia, deep in the Great Smokey Mountains of North Carolina. With a significant amount of...persuasion, the location of this colony, named Mesaba after the lake, was revealed. A full quarter of the capture it. For two months now, the colony had been held hostage.
From that point on, the division of 60 had waited for further orders from the Leader. The day was September 26th, and the night was still and calm. A gentle mist floated off the surface of the lake, and the colony and BDA camp lay slumbering in silence. The man, an Airbender named Greg, was one of the few night sentries posted to guard Mesaba.
Greg sighed and pulled his thin robes closer, trying to ward off the chill air. His white breath floated through the air in small puffs, and the sounds of the camp had died down to nothing. With a thought of the sleeping bag that awaited him in his tent, his head began to droop towards the ground. Within seconds, he was fast asleep.
He awoke to the sound of crackling air, followed by an enormous explosion. Greg jerked from his position and turned his eyes to the camp, gasping at what he saw. A third of the 30 tents that made up the camp were ablaze. Greg ran as fast as he could towards the inferno, again hearing the crackling air followed by the explosion. Within seconds, an entire row of 10 tents were on fire.
Enforcers ran to and fro as they scattered like roaches from the blaze. Greg ran towards the only row of tents still standing. At the front end of the row, his back to the forest, stood an enormous man. He stood six feet tall and heavily muscled, with a heavy set bearded face. An unusual tattoo of an eye adorned his forehead.
The man took a deep breath. The man's stomach retracted grotesquely. From the man's eye tattoo a thin stream of energy that pierced through the entire row of tents. The air crackled and the energy stream exploded. The tents were incinerated instantly, bursting out bits of flaming fabric or body parts as they burned.
Greg gasped in shock as he scanned the burning tents. With an intake of breath he ran towards the man with all his man. The man turned towards Greg, his face blank. As Greg drew near, he noticed that the man's right arm and leg were missing, metal prosthetics in their place. Greg drew back his fist and prepared to strike when the man thrust forward his metal arm.
The man grabbed his chest and clenched his hand, squeezing into Greg's chest. Greg screamed as he realized that the man's hand was clawed and had cut into him. The man lifted Greg a foot above the ground and stared at him with the same blank expression. With a grunt, the man retracted his stomach and shot an energy bolt into Greg's chest.
The bolt pushed Greg off the man's hand and across the camp. He landed in the lake with a splash as the stream of energy combusted. As the explosion settled, bits of flesh began to land in the lake and camp. The man walked slowly toward the shore. He gazed upon the colony, now wide awake. As several men glided across the lake towards him, the man took a deep breath and began.
Inferior. Tired. Crippled. Weak. These words cycled over and over in the mind of the Leader as his wheelchair slowly approached the command center. His body ached, his mind was spent, and the raw stumps of his two severed fingers burned. He had never felt this angry before. His defeat, his only defeat, at the hands of a traitor had cost him so much more than his fingers. His esteem was crippled alongside him.
As he neared the steel double doors of the command center, the doors silently opened for him. He entered the room and looked back, finding Vayu and Adam holding the doors for him. The Leader shot them a glare and moved to the wall of 25 black computer screens, where Morgan waited. Morgan watched him warily, and the Leader remembered with a sting that Morgan had carried his unconscious body in his arms.
"What's happened?" the Leader demanded.
"We've lost all contact with the three divisions stationed at Mesaba." Morgan reported as he typed on a keyboard.
"Which divisions are stationed there?"
"Yukon, Hudson, and East Coast divisions."
"And we haven't heard anything from them?"
"No reports have come in for two days."
"Have we tried to hail them?"
"I have, but they're not responding."
"And what are you trying now?" the Leader asked.
"The camera. There were 60 agents there, and we have cameras implanted in 20 of them."
A computer screen near the bottom of the wall flickered to life. A horrible image filled their view. The camera they were connected to, normally planted in the right eye, seemed to be floating in water. The camera bobbed as the eye seemed to rotate of its own accord. The Leader realized that the eye was no longer connected to its owner.
The camera rotated above the surface for a moment and gave them a view of the Enforcers' camp.
"Heaven above, what's happened?" Morgan gasped.
The camp was completely destroyed. Flames of enormous proportions arced into the sky over the ruins of the camp. No human presence was visible. The camp seemed to be deserted. Or wiped out. The camera went below the surface of the water for a moment.
"Who did this?" the Leader demanded.
"It couldn't have been the colonists, it's a Waterbending colony."
"Kumara, perhaps?" Morgan suggested.
The Leader's eyes widened in anger at the use of her name.
"Check her camera."
Morgan walked over to another keyboard and activated another screen. The screen showed a desert expanse flying rapidly below Kumara, unaware she was transmitting her location to the Leader.
"She's still flying."
"Why haven't we sent a team after her yet?" the Leader questioned.
"She'll lead us to Jordan. Wouldn't it be better to keep her alive to find his location as well?" Morgan defended.
"Why not just tap into Jordan's camera?"
"We don't give Jordan an implantation. We took his out after the 1984 attack. We only have cameras for Adam and Kumara."
The Leader fumed at his own stupidity for not having them all tracked. With an angry sigh, he turned his attention back to the camera of the agent in Mesaba.
"Try a different agent."
Morgan began to type, but stopped after looking back at the screen. The camera showed a shadowy figure moving through the water towards the eye.
"Is that one of ours?" the Leader questioned.
"I don't think so."
The person neared the camera and picked it up. The camera rose until it was level with the person's face. The Leader's face stiffened.
"That can't be." Morgan said. "I thought we killed him years ago."
"We did." the Leader answered simply.
Silas' face was heavy set and bearded. He was completely bald, but a third eye tattoo adorned his bulging forehead. A crackling sound radiated from the camera's speaker, and a bolt of energy streamed from Silas' tattoo. The bolt hit the camera straight on. The camera blacked out and the screen turned to static. The Leader sat in his wheelchair, silent.
"Vayu, Adam. Leave." he commanded. Vayu and Adam glanced at each other nervously and left the room. A few seconds after the door was firmly shut, the Leader spoke.
"Have you tracked them?"
"They're on their way now."
He had come in the morning, in the full view of everyone present. He had dragged him from his favorite chair and carried him from the cell block. He had gone quietly, without a fight, or even the slightest sign of protest. As the most hated member of the BDA beat him to unconsciousness, the prison gasped and mourned as one.
Lee awoke as if in one of his dreams. Hanging from a wall in chains. At times when The Depression had sapped everything out of him, he sometimes surmised that it would be better this way. Plainly imprisoned instead of living the lie of freedom the BDA had given him. But as he slowly became aware of his senses, it occurred to him. The smell of the air, the cuffs cutting into his wrists, the fogginess of his sight. It was real.
Lee hung alone in what appeared to be a large cavern. The walls were the color of the sandstone that made up Uluru. The air was dusty and a thin layer of sand covered the floor. Lee's senses had fully recovered now, and he realized that he was more restricted than he thought. Each of his fingers, his elbows, knees, and ankles were also in chains. As he pondered the reason for doing so, a door at the far side of the room opened.
The Leader limped inside and over to Lee. He stopped about four yards away, staring. Lee opened his mouth and tried to speak. His throat felt as if sandpaper had been shoved down it.
"I suppose I'm here because of Peter?"
The Leader did not respond.
"I should've seen it coming, I guess. There's always consequences for every action, good or bad. I just turned out to be his."
The Leader still was silent. As Lee began to speak again, the Leader began to swing his arms in the motion used to create lightning. Lee sighed heavily, not with fear, but resignation. It had to have come eventually. With interrogation, he would reveal nothing. With torture, he would not break. With bribery, he would not be swayed. The only option left to them was execution.
But as Lee watched, it was clear that something was off. The Leader was only using his left hand, his right remaining stationary at his side. The Leader aimed his left hand towards Lee, and a small tendril of lightning sputtered out of his fingers. It flowed slowly to Lee before dying midway. The Leader's face tightened in anger, and he stormed out of the room.
Lee sighed in relief, only to be interrupted by the door opening again. This time it was Vayu who entered. Vayu walked straight to Lee before stopping in the same place the Leader had. Vayu pulled his right arm back and swiped at Lee. A small, swift air blade flew towards Lee. As Lee watched it come closer, he realized the blade's target.
Vayu looked at the stain adorning the hem of his robe. Even with black robes, the blood of the scum hanging on the walls was as noticeable as the Leader's two missing fingers. Vayu promised to do more next time as he entered the training room. He opened the door and stood there for a moment, shocked.
"Vayu. White hair, battle scars, and the blood of a recent kill. You haven't changed much have you?" the deep voice laughed.
The speaker himself hadn't changed either. Broadly muscled, bald, tattooed. With a touch of memory, Vayu fondly remembered when Silas and Dianne had escaped. As a parting gift, Vayu had "relieved" Silas of his two right limbs. They were replaced with two metal prosthetics. The fingers of the fake hand were clawed.
Silas took a deep breath and his stomach retracted. Vayu's heart skipped a beat and he jumped into the air with an air blast. Silas looked up and fired. Vayu fell through the air and diverted his course by blasting off the walls of the room. The bolt missed Vayu and exploded against the wall, a hearty boom echoing through the cavernous room.
Vayu fell to the ground and ran towards Silas. Silas fired again and Vayu dived out of the way, getting ever closer to him. Silas fired again and again, trying to kill Vayu as he ducked and weaved through the bolts. Finally, as Vayu approached from less than a yard, Silas thrust his left arm forward and sent a fireball at Vayu, retracting his stomach as well.
As expected, Vayu jumped into the air to avoid the fireball. As he did, Silas tilted his head and fired into Vayu's trajectory. Vayu's eyes widened in shock as the bolt approached him. Mind reeling, he spun through the air and fired a thin air stream at the incoming explosion. As the two impacted, a massive explosion occurred. Silas scanned the smoky air for Vayu as felt it. Vayu's signature trick, his last playing card.
Vayu parted the smoke cloud and walked towards Silas, one hand outstretched in a pincer motion. Silas tried to fire again, but could not take a breath. He clutched his throat, gasping for air.
"This is why you weren't accepted. You couldn't beat me." Vayu taunted.
As Vayu prepared to snap Silas' throat, he felt a sudden sting on his cheek. With his free hand, he gingerly felt it. Blood. As he wondered what it could be, he recoiled as it repeated on his other cheek. Then again on his forehead. Vayu released his grip and searched for the source. Out of the far corner of the room she came.
She was easily the palest woman Vayu had ever seen. She stood tall and slender, wearing a tight black leather armor that exposed her shoulders. Emblazoned on her right shoulder was a coiled black snake. Her eyes were lidded and dark. Her hair was partially in a bun held by a skull ornament. The rest of her hair hung past her shoulders.
Dianne came out of the shadows and walked towards Vayu. As she walked, she made the smallest, almost unnoticeable movements of her right hand. With each fidget, another cut appeared on Vayu's exposed skin. Vayu winced with each cut and staggered towards Dianne, trying to attack but stopping with each new wound. Silas stood back up, recovered, and fired at Vayu.
Vayu weakly put up an air shield. The bolt of energy pierced it and impacted with Vayu. The bolt compacted for a moment then exploded. Vayu flew through the air and slammed into the cliff wall, unmoving. Silas prepared to fire again, to finish it as a voice roared through the air.
Silas turned to the source and found the Leader, standing by the entrance.
"I don't need another replacement member." he sighed.
Vayu rose slowly and gazed at the Leader in shock.
"Did you not know?" Silas taunted.
"Know what?" Vayu whispered.
"That Silas and Dianne have been my spies for the past 12 years. I sent them to infiltrate the Rogues, so that when the time was right, we could extract one of our final victories before moving to the Free Bender Capital. And now, with New York destroyed and the Avatar finished, it is time. The Rogues will fall and the Mistress will die. And so, they have returned. And stronger than ever."
Vayu was dumbfounded. Before leaving, Silas and Dianne were the laughing stock of the BDA. Sure, reports of their attacks had been...
"But what about the attack? All of the people at Mesaba?" Vayu accused.
"Well, they had to be convincing for the Devil herself, didn't they?"
"They killed all of those men..."
"What's the matter with you Vayu?" Dianne whispered. "Have you finally softened up and starting caring?"
"Those were OUR men!"
"Our sacrifices, yes. But in the face of what could be our greatest victory, does it really matter?"
Vayu bowed his head and swallowed his feelings. He warily stood and limped to the Leader.
"And our price?" Dianne asked.
"You have proved yourselves beyond what I had expected. Welcome to the Elite." the Leader announced.
Jordan walked down one of the wide, lonely streets of the French Quarter of New Orleans. Even in the dead of night, the street was brightly lit and had a cozy, warm feeling. A light mist had draped itself across the city from the lake to the north. Lights from the buildings shined through the fog like the sun on a cloudy day. A few stragglers dotted the street, but for the most part, Jordan was alone.
Though the date Jordan had set to meet Kumara was still two days away, he couldn't help but wander through the city watching for her. Upon his arrival into the city, he had realized that he had set no meeting place or time on the note. With this sense of paranoia, he had resigned himself to walking throughout the city each day before returning to his hotel on Royal Street.
As he continued northeast on St. Louis Street, he came upon the Cathedral, across the street from Jackson Square. The cathedral was visibly different from the normal stereotype that came up whenever Jordan thought of the building. The building looked more of a castle than that of the classic Gothic black buildings he had seen. Jordan took a moment to admire the building yet again before crossing Jackson Square to a riverfront walkway known as the Moonwalk.
The sound of his footsteps echoed through the deserted air. The fog here was thicker than it had been in town. The air was chilly, and had an almost malevolent feel to it. As Jordan began to ponder returning to his hotel, the sound of another's footsteps interrupted his thoughts. The dark shadow of a figure began to emerge from the fog. As Jordan continued, the person became visible.
A beautiful woman walked towards him at a slow pace, glaring intently at him with a small smile on her pale red lips. She carried her hands inside the folds of a simple red robe, with gold trim at the edges. At first glance, Jordan assumed she was in her forties, though her looks could pass off as early twenties. Her eyes were the color of faded amber, yet they burned with emotion as she gazed at him.
Jordan stared back at her as they continued walking towards each other. As they met, a small sound escaped his lips as realization dawned on him. Before he could finish her accursed name, she drew her hand from within her robe and stabbed at Jordan with a small dagger of ice. Jordan gasped in pain, his breath coming in short bursts of cold air.
The Mistress kept her hold on the dagger, and with her other hand, motioned towards Jordan's stomach. The blood that had seeped from the wound flowed around the dagger, encircling it. With a clench of her fist, the blood froze, holding the dagger in place and closing the wound. She released the dagger and stepped back, raising her right arm as she did so. Jordan rose through the air as the Mistress' arm did.
Thoughts flashed through Jordan's mind as he continued to rise. With a glance to the sky, his fears were confirmed: the moon was full. Jordan had risen above the fence that lined the edge of the walkway facing the river. Katrina stepped forward, and Jordan levitated over the churning depths of the river. As she walked, a large stone pipe rose out of the river near the fence, directly below Jordan. With a flick of her wrist, Jordan dropped into the pipe with a scream. The second he had disappeared, the pipe descended back into the river.
The Mistress stared at the spot where the pipe had been for a short moment. Without a moment's hesitation, she put up her hood and continued her walk as the moon shined through the dissipating fog.
For the collective works of the author, go here.