“Hey, Korra, it’s Mako.”
“Mako! How are you?”
“I’m fine. But I wanted to talk to you – Wu called a few minutes ago, completely in a tizzy. It seems there’s a rumor about some new super weapon floating around?”
Korra frowned. “I haven’t heard anything.”
Mako sighed. “He made me promise to call you, ask you to keep your ear to the ground. Naturally, after Kuvira, and with the Earth Kingdom in such a delicate period of transition, the idea of a super weapon has him spooked.”
Korra breathed in deeply. Wu wasn’t the only one.
“Let me know what you find,” the voice on the other end of the line said. “I’m here to help in any way I can.”
A couple of days passed. Korra did a little digging, but no one seemed to be causing trouble on the world stage. Commander Guan and Doctor Sheng had been locked up, Tokuga had gone silent, Kuvira was under house arrest in Zaofu and seemed to have turned over a new leaf.
Then, she received a call from the office of the president of the United Republic of Nations.
“Good afternoon, Avatar Korra.” The voice on the other end of the line was incredibly formal, almost suspiciously so.
Korra grinned at its stiffness. “Hey, Bolin, how’s it hanging?”
“I am doing quite well, thank you. Avatar Korra, President Moon would like to request an urgent meeting with you.”
“Okay… how soon can she meet?”
“Our schedule is entirely open to you.”
Korra sat up a bit straighter, suddenly concerned. Since becoming president of the United Republic, Zhu Li’s schedule was packed months in advance. Anyone who spent five minutes in a room with Varrick would know it, from the way he complained about his wife’s workload.
“Um, I can head right over, if that works for you.”
“That would be wonderful. I will mark you down on the official schedule.”
“Bolin,” Korra asked, worried, “is this about some sort of super weapon?”
“I cannot divulge any classified information over the phone…” Korra stood, at full alert, “…but I believe it is a personal matter.”
“Oh.” She sat back down and frowned. Zhu Li was the last person Korra expected to have any personal problems, let alone urgent ones. “Well… I guess I’ll see you in a bit.”
Bolin escorted Korra into President Moon’s office. She was standing at her desk, the large glass window behind her framing the ruins of Republic City. The column of the spirit portal glowed brightly in the distance. Zhu Li glanced up. “Thank you, Bolin – that will be all for the moment.”
Bolin nodded and closed the door behind him.
“Hello, Korra.” Zhu Li reached across the desk and shook her hand. “Thank you for agreeing to meet with me on such short notice.”
“I’m just happy you were able to fit me in. This isn’t about some sort of super weapon, is it?”
“No, certainly not,” Zhu Li said sharply. Her voice softened. “I have a… delicate matter I need to discuss with you.”
“Alright then,” said Korra, hands open. “Discuss away!”
Zhu Li took a moment before starting. “I would never dream of asking you to fix my personal problems, but this one could have political repercussions. It seems a disgruntled Raiko supporter was able to obtain some… highly damaging footage of me.”
There was no way Zhu Li was secretly creating weapons of mass destruction… was there? She had been a part of Kuvira’s army, for three whole years. Korra raised an eyebrow. “President Moon – Zhu Li – if you’re involved in anything sketchy, I really need to know about it before…”
Zhu Li turned slightly pink. “No, Korra – you misunderstand me. Highly damaging personal footage.”
Korra frowned, confused. “You’re not – cheating on Varrick, are you?”
“Gracious, no!” Zhu Li let out a laugh that almost sounded like a sob. Getting control of herself, she muttered, “quite the opposite.” She folded her arms and slowly tapped her foot, waiting for Korra to catch on.
“Oh.” The avatar’s eyes got wider. “OH.”
Zhu Li dropped her head into one hand in shame.
“Zhu Li… how did this, um… footage get into the wrong hands? I mean, was this something you and Varrick just had lying around?”
“No. While my husband and I do have a few… reels of that nature, they are all locked up in a very secure location.”
“So then how did they –”
“According to my source, the footage in question was recorded… here.”
Korra grimaced as she glanced around. “Here? Really?”
“They must have paid one of support staff to plant a hidden camera or microphone.” Zhu Li gritted her teeth. “I have no idea how they managed to hide it. Both are so bulky, I should have spotted it immediately, especially after all that time working on movers with Varrick.”
The red phone on Zhu Li’s desk started to ring. Both women’s eyes flew toward it.
“I’m sorry, I need to take this.” Korra nodded. Zhu Li picked up the phone. “Hello? Good afternoon, Fire Lord Izumi. I hope everything is well.”
Korra could make out the sounds of a voice on the other end. Fire Lord Izumi sounded stressed.
“A super weapon?” Zhu Li turned away to face the window, rubbing the back of her neck. “I’m sure it’s only rumors. We’ve been tracking any dissidents we know about who are operating within our borders, and I can assure you – none of them have the capability to make something of that nature.”
Mako had told her before, the first step of a good investigation was to make sure to get the full picture of those closest to the victim – typically family. Clearing them or digging up clues within the first few hours was vital. Which was how Korra found herself down by the docks, boarding Varrick’s yacht, The Spirit of Independence.
“I know it may not seem like it, but Zhu Li’s really torn up about this,” he said, pacing. “I would appreciate it if you could help us find the fiends who did it and get that reel back!”
“It would help if I know what I’m looking for,”Korra replied. “Zhu Li said they had footage, but she didn’t seem to know if it was an audio recording, a video recording or both.”
“That’s because none of us know! You’d either need a mic, a camera, or a mic and a camera, and none of them are small enough to be unnoticeable.” He shook his head. “Regardless, if they have the footage it seems they have, then it’s gonna come on a reel – audio or video.”
“Good to know.” Korra paused. “Varrick, you haven’t happened to hear anything about any sort of super weapon, have you?”
His eyes darted back and forth. “A super weapon?! What sort of super weapon are we talking about here? Kuvira hasn’t been working on another spirity death ray, has she? I thought you were staying on top of that!”
Korra held up her hands. “I am, I am.”
It wasn’t until she’d left the boat that she wondered if Varrick had protested just a little too much.
Korra headed for the spirit portal, to check in with Tenzin.
“Heard anything on Tokuga lately?” she asked.
The master airbender shook his head. “It’s all quiet on that front – perhaps too quiet. There’s a rumor circulating that someone is developing or has otherwise gotten their hands on some sort of super weapon.”
Hands on her hips, Korra surveyed the great beam of the spirit portal, shooting up into the sky. “You’re the third person who’s mentioned this to me. Where are these rumors coming from?”
“The air acolyte who passed it on to me had heard the weapon was being developed within the United Republic of Nations, which obviously set off a few alarms. Korra, you don’t think it’s possible that President Moon is starting an arms race, do you?”
“I think President Moon has other things on her mind right now. I’m actually helping her with a project. A personal one.”
Tenzin raised his shaggy eyebrows.
“Let me know what you hear,” she said as she turned to leave.
“Of course. And Korra?”
Korra twirled the seaweed noodles around her fork. Asami had brought home takeout from Narook’s, her favorite.
“Not hungry?” Asami raised an eyebrow as she neatly patted at her red lips with a napkin.
“Hungry, sure,” Korra said, stuffing noodles in her mouth. “But worried, too. You haven’t heard anything about a possible weapon of mass destruction being built, have you?”
Asami’s green eyes widened. “Actually, I have. But I dismissed it immediately.”
“It came from someone I know at Cabbage Corp. He made it sound internal, but I know for a fact they have nothing in the way of capabilities in that direction. They’re focused more on audio-visual products these days than combustion engines.”
“Huh.” Korra frowned and chewed thoughtfully.
Asami paused before taking a sip of water. “Why? Is there something else?”
Korra shook her head. “The audio-visual thing just reminded me of my other project.”
A smile played on Asami’s lips. “Oh, yeah? Thinking of joining Bolin in the world of mover stars?”
“Ha! No. But Zhu Li called me to her office today. Apparently, an angry Raiko supporter claims they have a recording from the presidential office.” Korra raised her eyebrows. “A private recording.”
Asami’s brows raised as well. “You mean…? Oh!” She made a face and took a swig of water, catching on much quicker than Korra had, which intrigued her a bit. “I suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised, since Varrick’s involved. The man tapes every minute of his life, I swear.”
“It doesn’t sound like he’s the one who taped it. It’s a mystery how it was done. Though Zhu Li did say they had some reels of their own, locked away. Which… I guess works for some people.” An image of Asami, unclothed and hovering over her, came into Korra’s mind and she blushed slightly. “Would you ever consider…?”
Asami thought for a moment. “I mean, I suppose I can see the appeal –”
“Sure. Capturing yourself in the prime of your life, doing something you greatly enjoy, with the person you love?”
Korra laughed. “Well, when you put it that way… I guess it is kinda sweet.”
“But I still wouldn’t do it.”
“I can see how it might have been a fun thrill back when you had to own your own theater – or be as rich as Varrick – to play a mover. But as more and more people buy their own projectors and technology gets smaller and more reliable, it just seems too risky.”
The phone rang. Korra finished chewing and picked it up. “Hello?”
“Hello, Korra – I’m so glad I caught you at home.” Her father’s voice came from the other end of the line. She smiled to hear it.
“Hey, Dad! What’s up?”
“This is an official call, I’m afraid. Have you heard anything -?”
“About a super weapon?” Korra groaned. “I’m on it, Dad.”
The following morning, Korra had the unfortunate task of checking in with President Raiko. She honestly wasn’t sure what his official title was, now that he’d been voted out of office in a landslide, but figured she’d err on the side of diplomacy.
“President Raiko, thank you for agreeing to meet with me.”
“Always a pleasure, Avatar Korra,” Raiko said, considering the misty landscape he was working on. He’d never treated her visits like a ‘pleasure’ when he was in office. “What can I do for you?”
“There are two things, actually. The more pressing of the two is a rumor that’s going around…”
“About the super weapon? It’s greatly disturbing.” Raiko squared his shoulders. “I do hope Zhu Li is up to the task of defending our nation, if it comes to it.”
Korra raised her eyebrows and glanced away. Raiko had rarely been ready to protect Republic City’s interests himself; now he was going to act like some day-late amateur pro-bending ref.
“The second is truly what I’ve come to talk to you about. It seems one of your… more ardent supporters has bugged the presidential office.”
Raiko let out a sigh. “Korra, you know I do not endorse and cannot be responsible for every crackpot who claims to support me.”
“Have you heard anything about it?” she asked.
“No.” He paused in his painting. “But you should check with Wenyan, my former campaign manager. If anyone would have better insight into our base, it would be him. He can give you a list of our biggest donors.”
Korra left the ex-president to his painting.
“Hey, I may need to go see a guy about a thing,” Korra said, leaning on Mako’s desk. “You wanna come with?”
Mako, frustrated, gestured to the pile of paperwork on his desk.
“Oops,” said Korra, picking it up and dropping the stack into his wastebasket. “Guess it went missing.”
Mako sighed and fished the papers out of the trash. “This is real policework, Korra. It’s not all glitz and glamor – chasing the bad guys, making flashy arrests.”
“Well, hurry it up, would you? I really could use some official backup here. I need to track down Raiko’s former campaign manager.”
“Wenyan?” He’d always been better at names than she had.
“That’s the one! Look,” she said, leaning forward. “He might be able to point us in the direction of the people who bugged the president’s office.”
Mako’s head snapped up. “What?!”
Korra frowned. “What, Bolin didn’t tell you?”
Mako shook his head. “No, he’s pretty rigid with the whole ‘confidential’ business… as he should be.” He thought for a moment. “Korra, what if this bug is somehow connected to a larger plot?”
“It’s weird,” she said, crossing her arms. “Zhu Li claims the recording is of a personal nature, but the more I follow the leads, the more I hear about this…”
“Hey, detective – step into my office for a moment.” Lin Beifong spotted Korra. “Oh good, you’re here as well. Hurry up!”
Once they were in the office with the door closed behind them, Beifong tapped on the phone. “My sister just called from Zaofu, very concerned about reports she’s been getting from Republic City. Have either of you heard any chatter about a –”
“About a super weapon?” Korra sighed.
“That’s the second report,” Mako said, alarmed. “Wu called me about it days ago. Korra, you said it may be connected to this stolen recording you’re looking into for President Moon?”
"At this point, I can't rule it out."
Beifong shook her head. “As if Republic City hasn’t had enough of super weapons to last a lifetime.”
“And we’re sure Kuvira isn’t involved?” Mako asked, crossing his arms.
“She’s positive. In fact, Su said that if we discover the party responsible, Kuvira would like a word with them, to explain just what a bad idea it is… from someone who’s been there.”
After getting Mako to agree to meet her later that evening, pending a phone call, she headed back to the municipal building and had Bolin escort her to President Moon’s door. Korra filled Zhu Li in on the information Raiko had given regarding his supporters.
“Wenyan?” Zhu Li’s eyebrows raised into her bangs, then she looked angry. “I know Raiko suggested he could give you names of donors, but I wouldn’t be surprised in the slightest if he was personally involved.”
“Do you know where I might find him?”
“I may. Have you heard of the Blue Moon nightclub?”
“It was started by a triad member, supposedly gone straight. Of course, that lasted as long as you’d expect it to,” Zhu Li said, with a bitter laugh as she scribbled down an address. “Ginger owns it now. You remember, Ginger from the Nuktuk movers - Bolin’s costar? I’ll give her a call.”
Ginger confirmed that Wenyan was, indeed, a regular patron of the club and could typically be found at his usual table after nine. Korra assured Zhu Li that she would catch up with the man and have a nice little chat with him that very evening.
“So Korra, level with me,” Bolin whispered, as he walked her to the front door of the building. “This personal matter you’re looking into for Zhu Li and Varrick. It’s a tape of them doing it, right?”
“That’s what I’ve been led to believe,” Korra sighed.
“I mean, Varrick let it slip once that that’s how he manages when Zhu Li is away on a trip, or working long hours. But I can’t imagined she’d just leave it around –”
“She didn’t,” Korra replied. “We still don’t know how they were able to record in her office though. Did you see anything, or anyone, out of the ordinary, Bolin?”
Bolin thought for a minute, then shook his head, dejectedly. “I wish I could say I did, but I don’t think I have.” He glanced up and met Korra’s eye. “She’s a good president. The best we’ve ever had, though I guess two isn’t really very many. They wouldn’t make her leave office for this, would they?”
“I don’t know, Bolin,” Korra replied.
He squared his shoulders. “I want to help.”
“Right. Mako and I are going to be confronting Wenyan at the Blue Moon nightclub, this evening at nine. You in?”
Bolin nodded resolutely.
It was curious, Korra thought, that she’d heard from every world leader except for two – the co-chiefs of the Northern Water Tribe. She was suspicious about her cousins’ silence. Given their father’s demise and the creeped-out feeling she’d always felt when Eska and Desna were around, she could see them possibly going that route. Before her scheduled rendezvous with Mako and Bolin, Korra decided to touch base.
The phone rang for a good minute. Finally, Eska picked up. “Hello?”
“Heeey Eska. It’s me, Korra.”
“Oh. Hello, Korra.” There was some bitterness in Eska’s tone. Though she’d gotten over Bolin, she’d never gotten over Korra “stealing” him from her.
“Listen, I just wanted to call and check in to see if you’ve heard anything… a lot of world leaders have reported rumors about a super weapon, and I –”
“Ha! Ha-ha-ha!” Eska’s laugh sounded like a duck quacking.
“Is… something about this situation amusing to you?” Korra asked, on edge.
Eska sighed. “Yes, I’ve heard the rumors, and obviously the super weapon is a sexual metaphor, used in the context of some titillating role-play between life partners.”
“In that vein, you should see the sculpture of Desna and I that Huan is working on. The nudity really is quite tasteful.”
“Good talk, Eska, bye!” Korra hung up the phone with a resounding clang.
Korra, Mako, and Bolin stood in front of the Blue Moon nightclub.
“Just like old times, huh?” Mako said, folding his arms.
“Man, I’ve missed it!” Bolin replied.
“Alright. We go in quiet. Don’t spook him.”
Just inside the door, a slim young man with wavy hair turned to greet them. “Hey, Uhvatar.”
“Tahno!” Korra was surprised. “What are you doing here?”
Tahno flipped his hair out of his eyes. “Started as the trombonist. Now I manage the joint. You here to speak to Ginger?”
“Gin,” Tahno called into the back. “Uhvatar Korra is here.”
The redhead stepped out from behind the blue velvet curtains, hissing, “You don’t need to broadcast it to the world. Some of our clientele is… skittish.” She nodded a hello. “Korra, Bolin, Bolin’s brother.”
“Mako,” he said, nodding back.
Tahno narrowed his eyes as Ginger looked Mako up and down appreciatively. “Yeah. But Bolin’s brother is easier to remember.” She jerked her head toward the back of the lounge. “Anyway – Wenyan is back there. He’s meeting with both a fella and a dame, which is a little out of the ordinary.”
Korra, Mako, and Bolin arrived at the table just in time to see some cash quickly disappear off one side and a small, metal box off the other.
“Hold it right there!” Korra demanded.
“Republic City Police Department,” Mako said, flashing his badge. “Hands where I can see them.”
“I know you…” Bolin said, narrowing his eyes at the woman. “You worked on the fliers for our children’s health campaign.”
The young woman scowled. “So what if I did?”
Mako, meanwhile, had grabbed the bag from Wenyan’s lap. “Well, well, well… what do we have here?” He retrieved the small metal box from the satchel.
“No seriously,” Bolin said, glancing between the three people seated. “What is it?”
Korra pressed one of the buttons along the top and the glass lid just above it popped open. She stared at the tin rectangle inside. Within a small opening in its center, she could see…
“A reel.” She popped the rectangle back into the machine, and pressed the button that read ‘START’. An audio recording of a door slamming played back. She quickly clicked the button that read ‘STOP’.
“Wooow,” said Bolin, examining the box. “How is it so tiny?”
The seated man next to Wenyan stood. “That is proprietary Cabbage Corp technology. I must demand you return it, or find yourself in a great deal of trouble with our lawyers.”
Mako scowled. “You know your legal footing flew right out the window when you snuck into the President’s office and recorded her meetings.”
Wenyan and his two companions glanced at one another sideways. The woman stifled a laugh.
“Alright,” said Mako. “Stand up, all three of you. We’re headed down to the precinct.”
Once all three had been handcuffed and locked up in the back of the police van, Mako ducked his head in and handed Korra the metal box.
“The Cabbage Corp guy called it a record taping… I think?”
The device was much smaller than a phonograph. Cabbage Corp stood to profit heavily off this technology.
“Well, thank you for your service, Korra,” Bolin said, extending his hand for the box. “I know President Moon will be thrilled to have this taping back in safe hands.”
“Bolin… wait,” Korra said, uneasily. She looked at Mako. “This whole time, everyone I’ve talked to has been going on about a weapon of mass destruction. Eska had a different theory. I honestly don’t know which one I hope is true.” Bolin and Mako looked very confused. “Well, yeah, I do… but either way, I’m not looking forward to finding out.” She shook her head. “I hate to check, but I have to know.”
Ginger had sauntered over during this conversation, curious. “Well, go on… as Varrick would say, do the thing.”
With a sigh, Korra pressed play.
The audio clicked on. Varrick’s voice was on the tape. He sounded serious.
“Madame President, I come to you with grave news.”
“Please, have a seat.”
“I think I’ll stand – we’ve recently received intelligence that a dangerous new super weapon has been developed.”
“That’s terrible news, Varrick. But what have I told you about giving me bad news before good?”
“Apologies, Madame President. But this news is all bad. Very, very bad.”
Zhu Li’s voice lowered slightly. “How bad?”
“Why don’t you come over here and find out?”
There was an interlude, in which the passionate sounds of kissing could be heard. Bolin covered his ears; Mako stared at the record taping in disgust.
“I called it, you know,” Ginger said, pointing to the box with a grin. “Three months in, I called it.”
“So about this super weapon,” Zhu Li said. “How do we get our hands on it before anyone else does?”
“Well, first you’re going to need to find it.”
There was the faintest sound of a hand shifting against fabric.
“Oh, what do you know?” Varrick choked out. “There it is.”
“And how should we handle this dangerous device?”
Varrick gulped. “Madame President, I’m sure with you, it’s in more than capable hands.”
“Some guidance would be appreciated.”
“Well, you’re going to need a safe place to store it.”
“I can think of a couple of options.”
“If you’ve got that worked out, then we just have to figure out where the hand-off should take place.”
“I typically conduct matters of state from my desk.”
“Okay, but this weapon could blow at any time. Maybe we should… clear your desk first?”
“Good thinking.” There was the sudden sound of many items crashing to the floor.
Bolin buried his face in his hands, looking traumatized. “Is that how the pencil sharpener got broken?”
“No, no… leave your name plate. This is very official business, after all.”
There was the sound of the clink of metal on the wooden desk.
“Alright. Hand over the weapon Varrick.”
“Are you sure you’re ready for it?”
“More than ready.”
Ginger reached out and hit the ‘STOP’ button. “Alright,” she said. “I think that’s enough of that. You’ve heard what you needed to. A girl has a right to her privacy.”
Korra sat down in the chair President Moon had gestured to, carefully folding her knees to one side so they didn’t brush the desk.
Zhu Li noticed what she was doing and something suddenly clicked. She sighed. “Korra, would you be more comfortable meeting on the couch?”
Korra flashed an embarrassed grin. “Um, yes… let’s do that.” Sitting down on the couch, she produced the metal box. “This is it – this is how Wenyan was bugging your office.”
“It’s incredible – it’s so small,” Zhu Li said, delicately examining the device.
“Cabbage Corp technology. I think they’re calling it a record taping?”
Zhu Li glanced up over her glasses. “And you’re sure there are no copies?”
“Beifong gave Mako the go-ahead to raid Wenyan’s apartment, plus his two accomplices. They found no more tapes, or equipment that could be used to reproduce one.”
“Thank goodness.” Zhu Li took off her glasses and polished them. “Korra, I can never thank you enough for your discretion in this matter.”
“Well, I figure someone’s gotta be the first Avatar to retrieve a sex reel,” Korra replied, as cheerily and non-awkwardly as she could muster.
The door to Zhu Li’s office swung open. “Korra!” Varrick spread his arms wide in greeting. “Good news, I take it?”
Zhu Li nodded. “Dear, look at how small they’ve managed to make it.”
Varrick nodded. “That’s impressive.” He picked it up and looked at the logo on the back. “Cabbage Corp, huh? Their CEO won’t be happy to discover this bit of technology leaked. Varrick Industries International might even be able to beat them to the punch. Serves ‘em right.”
Varrick, without really thinking about the implications, pressed the ‘START’ button, then jumped and hit the ‘STOP’ button guiltily as Zhu Li’s moans and his own gasps filled the room.
“Again, thank you so much, Avatar Korra,” Zhu Li hurried her toward the door as Varrick’s curiosity got the better of him. As Korra stepped into the hall and Zhu Li hurried back across the room to her husband, he pressed ‘START’ again.
“I need the weapon, Varrick. I need you to give it to me.”
“I’m giving it everything I’ve got, Madame President!”
“Don’t stop. That’s an order, from your Commander-in-Chief.”
“I think it’s gonna blow…”
“No. You can manage… another minute.”
Varrick whistled lowly. “Zhu Li, honey, listen to you go.” The door to Zhu Li’s office slammed behind her.
Korra shook her head.
As far as presidential scandals went, at least this one had a happy ending.