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Instincts of a Fearful Body

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Chapter Two: The Revelation
(Come for the Revolution, Stay for the Riot)

Asami followed her mother into the meeting room, squinting as her eyes adjusted to the dim lighting. A single long table dominated the room, and most of the dozen chairs were occupied. Asami caught sight of a few familiar faces before her mother sat down. She quickly took a seat beside her, still a little unnerved to be attending the meeting at all.

Liu shot her a brief smile before turning back to Amon beside him.

“Thank you for joining us, Yasuko,” Amon said. He inclined his head further. “And I would like to extend a special welcome to Asami, Yasuko’s daughter.” Heads around the table swiveled in her direction with interest.

“Though she’s young, Asami has spent the past couple years helping her mother more and more,” Amon continued. “Recently, she’s completed several solo engineering projects for the Equalist cause. She’s a capable engineer and, as our plans move further into motion, I wanted to make it clear that both of the Sato women are available as a resource. Everyone at this table has their own role to play in our revolution, and we must work together as a cohesive unit to do so.”

His gaze moved away from her, taking with it the room’s attention. Asami relaxed slightly. She noticed Shenzu, the poster guy, smile reassuringly at her. She gave him a slight nod back. Aside from the two of them, the room was largely composed of older people.

“You have the most recent update on preparations for our demonstration tonight, Lieutenant?” Amon turned to the man at his right, who nodded.

“I do.” Unlike Amon, Liu removed his mask for meetings. “This afternoon I led a strike team into the Triple Threat Triad’s base. We collected several benders for the revelation, making sure the obtain a representative sample.”

“How many of each type did you take?” asked a gruff, bearded man across the table from Yasuko. Asami recognized him as the director of recruitment.

“Three firebenders, two earth, and two water,” answered Liu. A proud smile pulled at the corners of his mouth. “Notably, one of those firebenders is Lightning Bolt Zolt himself, leader of the Triple Threat Triad. He should make for a good demonstration piece for the crowd.”

Asami raised an eyebrow and exchanged a glance with her mother. A surprised murmur rippled among those gathered.

“Very good, Lieutenant,” Amon said favorably. “His notoriety should play well for the audience. I’ll be sure to leverage that tonight.” He turned to Shenzu. “As for the audience itself, what can we expect by way of turnout?”

“I’ve received good figures from my distribution team,” Shenzu said. “Based on past attendance to non-publicized rallies, existing registered Equalists, and estimated engagement with this flyer campaign, we can expect between 1000 to 1500 in attendance tonight.”

“Excellent,” Yasuko murmured. The group as a whole nodded and smiled in approval.

Farther down the table, another woman made a comment about the number in attendance fitting the venue well, but Asami’s attention gravitated back towards the bearded man who had asked about the types of benders. He’d crossed his arms and seemed disgruntled.

Amon noticed as well. He directed his focus down the table, which shifted everyone’s gaze as well. “You seem concerned, Director,” he said.

“Yes,” the man replied. He rubbed at his beard. “I’m worried that, in that kind of crowd, we might have an incident with one of our hotheads. I address doubts when I come across them, but we have more than a few who are impatient at our pacing.”

“Will The Revelation tonight satisfy them?” Amon asked.

Asami looked down at her lap at the reminder. Amon’s powers chilled her to the bone, and she wasn’t even a bender.

“Hopefully,” the director replied. “But it will largely depend on crowd reaction. I know most of those in attendance will be sympathetic to the cause. Unlike previous rallies, however, not everyone there will be a confirmed Equalist. I could see some troublemakers causing a disturbance in the crowd if things don’t go according to plan. They want action and they want it now, not on our timeline.”

“I will keep the crowd more than engaged,” Amon said. His voice brooked no room for argument. “We will all take your concern into consideration, and keep our own people in line if we have to. There is no reason for us to rush now that we’ve reached this point.” He chuckled. “Besides. We are close enough now to the end. Even our most impatient revolutionaries should be satisfied.”

Liu cleared his throat. “Even so, we shouldn’t take any chances with the revelation. I propose we place a few trusted associates throughout the crowd, ready to respond if needed.”

Amon nodded. “A reasonable suggestion, Lieutenant. Do you have people in mind?”

“The director and I can mobilize several of our operatives who aren’t on protective duty tonight,” Liu said. He glanced down the table. “And I’d like to volunteer Asami as well.”

She blinked. “Me? I’m just an engineer.”

Beside her, Asami felt her mother’s shoulders move in a sigh.

“You’ve been through chi blocking training with everybody else,” Liu said. “And you have more than sound judgement.”

“Arrange it,” Amon said. “Let no interruptions  His tone closed the topic. “How is the electrified glove project progressing?”

Yasuko sat forward. “Very well. Asami and I finalized the last batch of test models last week. They’ve worked fine in the workshop, and I transferred them to the director several days ago.”

Amon shifted his attention. “How are they working with your recruits?” he asked.

“Very well,” the director replied. “I have a few notes, but they’re far improved from the first prototypes we worked with. Our lower-level chi blockers in particular should benefit from their addition to our forces. The glove is intuitive and requires far less training than a full course of chi-blocking.” He pulled out a paper and slid it across the table to Yasuko. “If you could look over a few of my last notes, I think they’ll be ready to put into full production.”

Yasuko glanced down, skimming the page, before sliding it over to Asami. “We’ll take care of it as soon as possible.”

The meeting moved on, addressing concerns and further future plans. Asami found herself engrossed with the notes on the electrified gloves, however. She had designed and tested them with her mother, but the two of them couldn’t put their inventions through the paces quite as realistically as was necessary.

Some of the notes were innocuous enough. Apparently the two nodes on the back of the glove were sticking out a bit and occasionally snagged on things. That was easily enough fixed.

Inconsistently incapacitates firebenders capable of lightning generation,’ however, was not a note she could divorce from the process required to discover it. She knew they took benders sometimes, usually triad members, for practice and demonstration.

But this wasn’t just chi blocking. This was her glove, the first project she and her mother had worked on together for the Equalist cause. And Asami didn’t like benders, but her skin crawled at the thought of someone on the other end of her glove. In the course of making them, Asami had certainly shocked herself on accident. She wouldn’t volunteer to repeat it.

She wouldn’t even volunteer bender-trash to repeat it. Over and over.

Her mother had attended Equalist meetings for years. Asami remembered when she’d come home talking about their latest lobbying plan. Even if it was for the same cause, kidnapping people felt distant from how things used to be.

At the end of the table, Amon stood up. Asami was half a step behind as everybody at the table stood up as well. “Let’s adjourn for now,” he said. “Stay aware and remember: we are on the brink of victory.”

Yasuko grabbed Asami’s elbow as they exited the room. “Do not sell yourself short as ‘just an engineer’ ever again,” she whispered. “Engineers make everything work. You are the reason the stage will lift Amon into the spotlights tonight, and we are the reason those gloves exist, providing safety and equalizing the playing field. You are an engineer, and you are on the road to being a leader because of it.”

Asami nodded. “Sorry,” she said. “I just wasn’t expecting Liu to volunteer me.”

Her mother’s expression softened. “He’s seen you grow up,” she said, “same as me. Sometimes it’s hard to look at you and realize how much you’ve grown, but Liu and I also have the best basis for comparison.” She smiled. “Take it as a compliment. You have a special task tonight at the revelation.”

“Yeah...” Asami summoned a smile.

“I would give anything to be there,” Yasuko said, voice tight with yearning. “Unfortunately, I’m probably the most public figure in the inner circle. I need to have a solid alibi as Future Industries’ representative tonight.” She sneered. “I would much prefer the company you’ll have at the revelation to the fools I’ll be pandering to at the gala event. Please make sure to enjoy it on my behalf.”

“Of course,” Asami replied. “I’ll tell you all about it once we’re both home.”

“As will I,” Liu cut in, smiling. “The next time I visit.”

“Oh Liu,” Yasuko said, turning toward him. “It’s really been too long. We should all get together and catch up after the revelation.”

“Sure thing,” he said. “And don’t worry, I’ll be sure to keep an eye on Asami.”

He went to ruffle Asami’s hair. She laughed and swatted his hand aside. For a moment, everything felt normal. Liu used to come over with Yasuko after their Equalist meetings, like an older brother who had moved out, but still visited sometimes.

Lately, he was too busy to do so. “I’m almost nineteen,” Asami said, rolling her eyes. “I don’t need a chaperone to be a part of the revolution.”

“I can give you a lift over,” Liu said. “Amon and I are about to leave, actually.”

Asami shook her head. “Oh, uh, no thanks.” She caught sight of her mother’s frown and added, “I think it would be best if I made my way to the factory by myself. It will give me a chance to enter with the rest of the crowd and start getting a read on the atmosphere.”

Yasuko nodded. “A prudent decision,” she said. She gave Asami a brief hug. “I’ll see you tonight. Stay safe. Tell me all about it.” She rested her arm on Liu’s shoulder a moment. “That goes for you too.”

“Yes, mother,” Asami said. For a moment, this felt normal too. Her mother could have been wishing her well before she went off to a party. That’s what normal rich girls did, she was fairly certain. She’d never been particularly close to any of them at the academy, and her mother had pulled her out for a more hands-on engineering education after a few months anyway.

“Asami,” Liu said, drawing her attention. “I’m serious about staying safe,” he said. “We’ve kept publicization fairly secure, but this is the largest event we’ve done yet. The chances of a police raid are still low, but higher than they’ve ever been.”

“I’ll be careful. You be careful up on stage,” she said as they started to part ways.

He chuckled. “There’s no safer place to be than beside Amon,” he said. “You haven’t seen him in action against benders before, but you will tonight. I don’t have a single worry.”

As she made her way to the side exit, Asami tried to ignore the pit in her stomach. Back in her workshop behind the house was a prototype satomobile engine that felt like where she ought to be.


* * *


“How do I look?” Korra stepped out of her closet and spun around. “Very Equalist? Such non-bender. Wow.”

Ghazan mock-clapped. “You look so nondescript, I wouldn’t have recognized you on the street.”

“It looks like you shrunk and dyed Ghazan’s clothes in the wash,” Ming-Hua said, flicking a few drops of water in Korra’s direction. “But it does seem pretty typical of the standard Republic City fashions we’ve seen.”

P’li glanced over from where she was making dinner. “Seems alright to me.”

Zaheer frowned. “You need to cover your tattoos.”

“What?” Korra pouted. “You made me cover them for the past three towns we’ve visited. Nobody is going to recognize them!”

“They’re a dead giveaway,” Zaheer said. “Recognizable marks like that are better than a mugshot.” He shot a glare at Ghazan.

Korra adjusted her sleeveless overcoat so it partially covered the tattooed bands on her biceps. “How’s this?”

“They’re still too visible,” Zaheer said.

Ghazan bounded to his feet and crossed his arms dramatically. “Oh no ! You’re not going out dressed like that, young lady!” He couldn’t keep a smile off his face, but the tone of voice was an impressive impression of Zaheer.

Everybody snickered. Zaheer didn’t seem amused. “She wouldn’t have anything covered up if someone hadn’t run off to help her get tattoos at fifteen.”

“Well they’re not going anywhere,” Korra cut in before Ghazan could reply. “So we’re gonna have to work with them.” She adjusted the overcoat again. The tattoos were mostly covered unless she raised her arms. “Better?”

Zaheer took a breath before just nodding. “That will do,” he said.

“Did it have to be so complicated?” Ghazan asked, flopping back down on the couch next to Ming-Hua.

“Maybe, but at least half the police force doesn’t know me by sight.” Zaheer smirked.

Ghazan sighed and sunk back into the couch. “Whatever,” he grumbled.

“Augh can we go ?” Korra smacked the door impatiently. “The Revelation isn’t going to wait for us before it starts!”

It took a few more minutes of banter, but they made it out the door eventually with dinner in-hand. Korra and Zaheer talked over the map of Republic City they’d referenced as they walked down to the factory neighborhood where The Revelation was marked on the map. The streets had mostly cleared, and those who remained seemed more interested in their conversations or their drinks to pay much attention to Korra and Zaheer.

During a lull, Korra asked, “So why does half the police force know Ghazan on sight anyway?”

Zaheer sighed. “It’s a long story, but the takeaway is that we were not always as consistently successful in our Red Lotus endeavors as we are now. Republic City was going through a period of transition and it crossed our minds to take advantage of the chaos to try and liberate Republic City a little.” A pause. “Things did not go according to plan.”

Korra waited a few beats, but he didn’t continue. “What happened?” she asked. “You can’t just say that and leave it at that!”

“Fine. In short: while Avatar Aang was away travelling with Katara and Sokka, we attempted to assassinate the then-Chief of Police, Toph Beifong.”

“Oh.” Korra grimaced. “So... how’d that go?”

“Not well.” Zaheer sighed. “Ghazan had hoped his lavabending would give him the edge, but he ended up injured with just about the entire Republic City police force on his heels, including Toph’s daughter, the current chief of police. Suffice to say, we’ve avoided the city for a while. Any officers our age or older are still likely to recognize Ghazan, unfortunately.”

“Yeesh. Why in the world did you think that would work out well? She’s a living legend, invented metalbending, all that stuff?”

“We were... very young,” Zaheer said at length. “Since then, we’ve shifted our objectives to be more targeted strikes. Taking out the chief of police wouldn’t have freed the people here.” He smiled. “That’s why we’re here now, to observe and enact a more... thorough dismantling.”

Korra grinned. “Sounds like a plan!”

Zaheer’s smile disappeared. “But on a serious note, avoid the police at all costs.”

“I got it.”

“In fact, you should avoid bending unless you’re on a mission,” he added. “We’re going to be spending a lot of time around the Equalist movement, and it would be disastrous for the wrong person to recognize you under those sorts of contradictory circumstances.”

“As equally disastrous as them recognizing my tattoos?” Korra chuckled.

Zaheer didn’t even crack a smile. “Yes.”

“Okay, okay, I will be careful. No bending. No police.” She huffed. “Anybody else to avoid due to facial recognition issues?”

“P’li, Ming-Hua, Ghazan, and I are known to Tenzin,” he said. “Making Air Temple Island an inadvisable destination. We’re also known to Tonraq, former-Councilman Sokka, and former-Fire Lord Zuko, but Sokka is dead and the other two are unlikely to show up in Republic City, so I don’t think we need to worry. Since liberating you from the South Pole, we’ve kept a relatively low profile.”

“Aww, you make it sound like the four of you got a kid and turned boring.” Korra winked. “I know for a fact I haven’t cramped your style that much. We still blow things up and you all still get laid.”

Zaheer chuckled. “And if the Red Lotus ever had a better scout or thief, I couldn’t name her.”

Korra glowed. “I learned from the best.”

A few minutes later, she nodded toward a factory in the distance. It was the only one still lit up, and small groups of people were all making their way to the entrance. “I think that’s the place.” She pulled out the flyer with the location marked on the back. “It’s the only conspicuously popular abandoned factory that would match the rough coordinates on this flyer.”

“Looks like it,” he said. “It must be difficult to advertise an event while trying to keep it a secret.”

She shrugged. “Whatever it is they plan on revealing, they can’t intend to keep it a secret after tonight, there’s bound to be too many people. Unless we’re all doing a group Equalist pinky promise, this is just how they want the news to get out.”

“An astute hypothesis,” Zaheer noted. “We’ll have to discuss our theories later.”

He took the flyer from her as they drew close to the door. Ahead of them, a few groups handed the doorman the same flyer before being admitted.

“This is a private event.” The doorman crossed his arms. “No one gets in without an invitation.”

Zaheer inclined his head as he held out the map-flyer. “We are honored to bear witness,” he said.

The doorman’s expression lightened. “The revelation is upon us, my brother and sister,” he said.

They made their way inside, walking past some rusty industrial equipment before the path led them to a catwalk that overlooked a dense crowd.

“Nice turnout,” Korra whispered.

Zaheer nodded. “Indeed, but I wonder how many here are committed members versus those who are merely curious.”

They walked down the stairs and Korra’s gaze gravitated towards the stage. Though currently empty, a huge reproduction of the flyer’s art dominated the backdrop. It really was a nice poster.

“Let’s find a place along the edge of the crowd.” Zaheer tapped Korra’s elbow to direct her. They eventually settled in a spot about halfway to the stage along the right side of  the crowd. Along the way, she thought she recognized one of the men near the protester’s stage in the park, but she couldn’t be sure. Their view of the stage was alright, but Korra briefly wished she could earthbend a small platform to stand on so she could see better. It wasn’t a feasible idea for obvious reasons.

Around them, the crowd whispered and murmured. Korra was about to try listening on the spiritual plane when the spotlights turned on, bathing the stage in light. An announcer’s voice rang out over the crowd.

“Please welcome your hero, your savior, Amon!”

The crowd around them cheered as a section of the stage floor slid open, spilling more light onto the stage. Korra and Zaheer clapped to fit in as she strained to see. After a moment, Amon and several uniformed Equalists rose into view, standing on a platform elevator.

Amon stepped forward to a microphone. The spotlights highlighted his white mask, which was just as striking in person as it was on the posters. He paused to let the crowd continue cheering for a few moments, then held out a hand to still them.

“My quest for equality began many years ago,” he said, taking the microphone from the stand. “When I was a boy, my family and I lived on a small farm. We weren’t rich, and none of us were benders. This made us very easy targets for the Firebender who extorted my father.”

Beside her, Korra heard Zaheer hum slightly as his eyes followed Amon across the stage. She glanced around. Everyone around them was completely focused on Amon.

“One day, my father confronted this man.”

Korra was about to turn her gaze back to the stage when she saw someone else who wasn’t looking up at Amon. A young woman about her age with wavy black hair had her eyes fixed on the floor, fists clenched.

“But when he did,” Amon continued, “that firebender took my family from me.”

Korra watched the young woman bite her lip before forcing herself to look up. Korra redirected her attention to the stage as Amon reached the critical part of his story.

“Then, he took my face.” Sympathetic murmurs rippled through the crowd. Korra and Zaheer exchanged a glance.

“I’ve been forced to hide behind a mask ever since.”

Another murmur ran through the crowd, this one edging into righteous anger. Korra glanced around. The young woman she’d noticed earlier had recovered her composure, but didn’t seem particularly engaged with Amon’s speech. Her gaze roved around the people around her. In contrast to everyone else there, she seemed unsurprised and unusually guarded. A moment later, the woman’s attention swept towards Korra’s direction.

Their eyes met. Korra blinked and pretended she’d only been looking at the woman briefly. Lessons from Ming-Hua on how to see without seeming to watch flickered through her mind for a moment before Amon started talking again.

“I’m here today to talk to you about bending. The council and the powerful benders of this city would tell you that bending brings balance to the world.” His voice grew harsh. “They are wrong. The only thing bending has brought to the world is suffering.”

He raised his hand, pointing out at the crowd. For a moment, Korra stilled, fearing his notice for a reason she couldn’t explain. “It has been the cause of every war in every era.” Another pause, this one heavier. “But that is about to change.

“I know you’ve been wondering, ‘What is The Revelation?’ You are about to get your answer.”

Korra glanced at Zaheer again, but his impassive expression gave her no cues to follow.

“Since the beginning of time,” Amon continued, “the spirits have acted as guardians of our world and they have spoken to me.”

Beside her, Korra felt Zaheer shift. His energy fluctuated in a way that she’d rarely felt before.

“They say that benders have abused their power. The Avatar is missing, an archaic concept the world has outgrown and discarded. In that absence, the spirits have chosen me to usher in a new era of balance.”

Heat flooded Korra’s face, shame and anger. Her heart felt so loud she expected the gathered people to turn and see her for who she was from its sound alone.

Amon’s voice turned cutting. “They have granted me a power that will make equality a reality: the power to take a person’s bending away, permanently.”

Shock ran through the crowd, which erupted into whispers and exclamations.

“That’s impossible,” Korra said, turning to Zaheer. “There’s no way.”

Zaheer’s impassive expression splintered into suspicion. “The spirits,” he murmured. “I have not heard of this...”

“Do you think he really...?” Korra bit her lip.

“I... cannot say,” Zaheer said. His attention remained locked on the stage.

“Now, for a demonstration.” Amon motioned to the back of the stage. The masked Equalists brought out a line of men with their hands tied behind their backs. “Please welcome Lightning Bolt Zolt,” Amon continued, “leader of the Triple Threat Triad, and one of the most notorious criminals in Republic City.”

The crowd booed and hissed as Zolt was brought up to stand beside Amon.

“Ah, boo yourself!” Zolt called out.

The other captives were herded along the back of the stage and forced to their knees, but Korra couldn’t tear her eyes away from Amon.

“Zolt has amassed a fortune by extorting and abusing non-benders, but his reign of terror is about to come to an end.” The man holding Zolt untied his hands. Korra raised an eyebrow.

“Now in the interest of fairness,” Amon continued, “I will give Zolt the chance to fight to keep his bending.”

The man who untied Zolt’s hands shoved him across the stage, but Zolt looked smug as he whipped around. “You’re gonna regret doing that, pal,” he said.

Zolt threw several fireballs toward Amon, who dodged them with nimble sidesteps as he moved forward. Drawing lightning into his hands, Zolt further closed the distance between them with a thrust, shooting lightning at Amon. Dodging again with a sidestep, Amon seized Zolt’s arm and pulled it in an arc, sending the lightning across the stage to the scaffolding above them.

Then Amon made a strange motion, placing one hand on the back of Zolt’s neck and the other on his forehead. From halfway across the factory, Korra could see Zolt’s body go stiff. His arm kept shooting lightning, but it started to fizzle out. The lightning shrunk back toward him, then lost enough power to be plain firebending. A moment later, even that extinguished completely.

Amon let go of Zolt, who flopped to the floor. Korra briefly wondered if he was dead before Zolt finally moved.

Amon stepped away and waited, eerily patient, with his hands clasped behind his back. Zolt struggled to one knee and threw a hollow punch at Amon.

No flames appeared.

Zolt overbalanced and toppled forward. His body slammed against the scorched stage floor with a thud.

“What, what did you do to me?” Zolt’s voice held none of his previous pride.

“Your firebending is gone,” Amon said, “forever.”

Korra took a step back reflexively. Zaheer grabbed her arm before she could take another. “Remember: we are non-benders. We are Equalist-sympathizers.” The crowd’s murmurs covered his whispers. She could barely hear him through the ringing in her head. “Stay focused.”

Korra’s eyes slid away from the stage. She found she couldn’t keep looking and her gaze turned to the crowd. Dozens of people around her bore grins and bright eyes as they looked up at the stage. The only exceptions were Korra, Zaheer, and the black-haired woman from earlier, who seemed the same as before: cautious and aware. She was the only person who didn’t seem surprised.

“The era of bending is over!” Amon declared. “A new era of equality has begun!”

He raised a fist. The crowd roared with cheers and applause. Korra whipped her head around to look at Zaheer with wide eyes. “Did the spirits give him that power?”

On stage, one of the Equalists yanked another bender to his feet, untied him, and kicked him forward to Amon.

“I don’t know,” Zaheer said. His voice wavered. “I need to go to the Spirit World immediately.”

“Now?” Korra glanced around. “This isn’t exactly a place I’d call safe to leave your body.”

“Now,” Zaheer snapped. “Guard me. You know how to reach me if I need to return.”

And with that, clasped his hands in front of his sternum, closed his eyes, and left. Korra felt his spirit leave and reached out with her own, creating a thin string of connection between them in case she needed to pull him back quickly.

She looked back toward the stage. The second bender didn’t fare much better against Amon. One of the Equalists tossed a water pouch forward with a laugh. It spread out in a puddle on the stage.

“This man is a gangster,” Amon said. “As a member of the Triple Threat Triad, he uses his bending to extort helpless non-benders. That ends today.”

The waterbender tried to bring the water up in an icy shield, but Amon vaulted over it easily. Just as with Zolt, he quickly maneuvered around to seize the back of his neck, then lower his other hand to the bender’s forehead.

The man’s body went stiff, then he fell down, limp. Unlike Zolt, he did not try to rise. He reached out a trembling hand to the puddle, clenched his fist, and let his hand drop to the stage. One of the masked Equalists dragged him offstage as the crowd cheered.

Korra felt a tremor in her arm. A bead of sweat ran down her forehead. She resisted the urge to call Zaheer back from the Spirit World.

They kicked forward the third man, an earthbender, and tossed a few rocks at his feet.

She averted her eyes this time. In doing so, she found herself looking right into the green eyes of the black-haired woman. Something about her felt odd, as though she, like Korra, was also some sort of outside in the audience. Something about them wasn’t fitting the target demographic.

A gasp from the crowd jolted them out of their focus on one another. Korra saw the other woman look back towards the stage right before she did too.

The earthbender was doing a paltry job of defending himself from Amon, but the real show was behind him. A pair of figures, faces obscured, had busted onstage from the back to seize the next bender being held in queue for Amon.

The taller infiltrator had brought more than a few rocks with him. He used quick, solid movements to keep the Equalists on stage at bay with a defensive perimeter. The shorter figure used an ice blade to slice the captives’ bonds and pulled him to his feet.

Around Korra, the crowd booed and hissed. The woman she’d been watching stepped forward, then stopped herself. The earthbender onstage seemed to take their escape attempt as motivation enough to redouble his efforts against Amon. “Get away,” he shouted. “It’s too late for me!”

The waterbender and earthbender dragged their friend off the right side of the stage with every Equalist but Amon in hot pursuit. Korra silently cheered for the benders as the three of them struggled to keep off the Equalists with distance attacks even as they made their way to a side door. Unbound and ready to fight, the rescued bender moved his hands in an arc to shoot lightning at the pursuing Equalists. Behind him, the waterbender was using quick water slices to cut open a lock on the side door.

Amon seemed entirely undisturbed by the escape attempt as he finally subdued the earthbender onstage, gripping the man’s neck and laying a hand on his forehead. It was only when the man dropped to the floor that Amon turned his attention to the escape attempt.

“It seems we have an interruption,” he said.

At that moment, several metal doors burst inward around the building’s perimeter. A dozen voices shouted, “THIS IS THE POLICE!”

The room erupted into chaos.

The Equalists immediately turned their attention away from the escapees, who took the opportunity to bust through the door and disappear. Korra seized Zaheer’s arm, trying to keep him upright as the panicked crowd surged around her.

She shut her eyes, struggling to push all the distractions away. People were screaming and stampeding around her, but she couldn’t leave without Zaheer. Her eyebrows furrowed together in concentration. Grasping the connection she’d established to Zaheer’s spirit, she yanked on it as hard as she could, sending a wave of energy down the line.

Someone clipped her shoulder, sending them tumbling to the ground. She struggled to her knees, suddenly more afraid of being trampled than of being arrested.

Kneeling gave her more grounding than standing, however. She closed her eyes and reached out, finding the connection faster than it took before. This time, she pushed herself to send a proper message, shouting, “ZAHEER GET BACK HERE RIGHT NOW!” down their spiritual line.

She pulled him into a sitting position and shielded his body from most of the blows of people running past, trying to escape.

The seconds it took him to return to his body felt agonizing. She knew it took a few beats, but the moment stretched out, longer and longer until his eyes opened with a snap.

“Police!” she shouted in his face. Around them, the chaos said everything she could have added.

Zaheer sprang to his feet. “This way!” he shouted, started for an exit.

The crowd had clustered around a door and were pushing through madly. Korra grabbed his hand and tried to muscle through. Right as they were close, however, the crowd swept Zaheer through the door, tearing his hand out of Korra’s.

She heard him shout, “Meet at the apartment!” before metalbending police forced the door closed.

Korra grimaced. Just her luck, that Ghazan couldn’t teach her metalbending.

She sprinted away, pulling her overcoat up. She silently vowed to make Zaheer take her to that metalbending teacher they kept talking about but never seemed to get to. Then she leapt and crashed through a window, rolling as she hit the ground outside.

“Ow, ow, ow,” Korra winced as she scrambled to her feet. The landing would have been easier with earthbending, but no bending meant no bending. She was as likely to be mobbed by the panicked Equalists around her as she was to get arrested by the police.

She picked an alley in the general direction of their apartment and ran for it.

“Metalbending,” she panted to herself. “New priority.” She would have quietly broken the ‘no bending’ rule in an isolated corner if she were able to make herself a new door.

Dashing down the alley, she pulled a sharp right turn and nearly ran into a brick wall. She quietly cursed and ran right back out, then picked another road.

All around her, the crowd of Equalists had dissipated into isolated groups of one to three people, every man for himself. Korra was in the process of trying to disappear down a sidestreet when she heard feet pounding behind her.

“Don’t let her get away!” A glance back showed a pair in police uniforms.

“Augh!” Korra put on a burst of speed and pulled a hard turn down the next street she came to. She took every second turn available, trying to lose them. Internally, she kept muttering, ‘no bending’ over and over, trying to resist the temptation.

Eventually, a turn did her wrong. She actually did run into a brick wall that time, and face-first to boot. Dazed, she stumbled to her feet right as the police caught up to her, panting.

“You’re under arrest,” one of them said. A fireball kindled in one of his palms. “Any attempts to resist will be met with force.”

Zaheer said no bending, but he’d also said not to get arrested. Korra bit her lip and weighed the two commands.

The officers took in her silence and lack of movement, then took a step forward.

In the blink of an eye, a figure dashed into view, disabling the police with a series of lightning-fast chi-blocks. The firebending officer barely managed to react before falling to the ground, stunned.

“Come on!” the figure called. Silhouetted in the dim lighting, Korra thought she recognized the silhouette as the young woman she’d noticed earlier in the rally.

She ran forward, jumping over the bodies of the police. Her savior led them back through a few alleys before she clambered over a few crates and dropped over a fence. Korra briefly debated parting ways at that point, but she didn’t know how many more police officers were out there, and she could reasonably assume that her savior wasn’t trying to get her arrested.

She dropped down over the fence after her.

“Come on,” the woman called, waving a hand. She stood in the doorway of what looked like a garage.

Korra glanced around once before running over. It looked like they’d broken into some private factory grounds. She caught sight of a logo made of half a gear before she entered the garage.

As soon as she was inside, the other woman shut the door behind her.

“Are you okay?” she asked, looking Korra over.

“I, um, yeah?” Up close, the young woman looked about her age. The dim lighting didn’t let Korra make out much more of her features, but she was clearly a little taller. “Thank you,” she said.

The other woman shook her head. She gingerly sat down. “It was chaos back there, but I saw them follow you into the alley. I knew it was a dead end, and I wasn’t about to let the police arrest an innocent non-bender like that.”

The events of the past few minutes seemed to catch up to Korra and hit her all at once. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah you... you had them on the ground before they even knew you were there.” Korra plopped down to the ground. Her cuts from the window protested the jolt. Korra distantly felt blood run down one of her arms. She hadn’t noticed them bleeding before. “Where did you learn chi-blocking like that?” If Korra was posing as a non-bender, it seemed like a super useful skillset to have. That and metalbending.

She blinked and dimly registered the blood was rushing to her head. “Are you an Equalist?” she asked, hazily.

The other woman tilted her head. “Um... we probably shouldn’t talk about that,” she said, “given current police attitudes.” A pause. “Hey are you sure you’re okay?”

“Y-yeah.” Korra nodded right as she started shaking. She was in a dark garage with a chi-blocker, an Equalist. An Equalist like Amon, who could take people’s bending away.

Korra resisted the urge to push away as the other woman stood back up. “Are you hurt?” the woman asked. She walked over and felt around for a moment before a single work lamp turned on over a bench.

Korra squinted in the sudden light. It did, however, give her 100% reassurance that her savior wasn’t Amon. She relaxed slightly. The woman looked down and frowned at the sight of her cuts. “Did you jump out a window?” she asked.

“Police bent the doors shut before I could escape.”

The woman’s lips narrowed into a tight frown. “I see. Not an easy choice then.” She turned around and rifled through a drawer, pulling out some bandages. “Let’s get those cuts cleaned out and wrapped up,” she said. “What’s your name?”

Korra blinked. “Name?” Not that most people knew the Avatar’s name was Korra, but Zaheer had her in the habit of using aliases in the towns they passed through. Everything was happening too fast though, and Korra hadn’t come up with one for Republic City yet. She reached through her memories and pulled up one that felt familiar. “I’m, uh, Naga.” She’d heard the name before somewhere, but couldn’t remember where it was from.

Korra held out her arm as the other woman knelt beside her. “I’m Asami,” she said. “Thankfully, it looks like these cuts are fairly shallow.”

Asami seemed fairly adept at treating minor wounds. Her fingers worked quickly to clean them and wrap them. Korra studied her as she worked in silence. The other woman’s motions were precise and deft; she moved in a way that spoke to practice and intent. Even after at least a mile’s run, Asami’s dark wavy hair was undeniably stylish; Korra bangs felt plastered to her face with sweat.

If she’d seen Asami on the street, Korra wouldn’t have thought she was an Equalist, but chi-blocking wasn’t the sort of skill you picked up on accident. And the stance she’d had during The Revelation was one of poise, ready to jump into action at a moment’s notice. Pretty features aside, Korra mentally marked Asami down as someone to be wary of.

Regardless, she was grateful for the rescue.

“Thank you,” she said as Asami finished applying her last bandage. “For saving me from the police and for cleaning me up.”

“It’s alright, Naga,” she said. “I’m just glad you’re okay.” A frown crossed her face. “There should have been better evacuation procedures in place for the rally,” she said. “The panic the police brought in was completely unnecessary if we’d been more prepared.” For a moment, Asami seemed troubled. She trailed off, deep in thought, before she looked back at Korra and seemed to remember she was there. “The sweep should have passed now,” she said. “Can you make it home from here?”

Korra bit her lip. “Um, I’m not sure if I can, actually.” She reviewed the major landmarks she and Zaheer had passed on the way to The Revelation. She wasn’t sure how far from the meeting place she’d traveled between running from the police and following Asami. “If you could get me to Central Station, or at least to the bridge near its east side, I can find my way.”

“I can do that,” Asami said, getting to her feet. She reached a hand down and helped Korra to her feet. “I think my adrenaline from that chase is finally starting to wear off.”

“Tell me about it.” Korra yawned. “I feel like I could fall asleep standing.”

They didn’t talk much as they made their way out of the factory grounds and through the back roads toward Central Station. After a few turns, Asami started using hand signals instead of whispering. Korra picked up on the code quickly enough, since they’d used similar gestures on Red Lotus missions before.

Now that the immediate police/Amon danger had passed, it was a little fun, actually. No objective but to get home, but it was a little like some of her scouting missions. The moon rose high in the sky as she followed Asami. All too soon, they were at a corner near Central Station. “This is your stop,” Asami said. Korra thought she saw her smile.

Korra stepped forward and placed a hand on Asami’s shoulder. “Thank you,” she said again. “I... would have been in a rough spot without you.”

“Anytime,” Asami said. “Try to avoid getting chased by the police, if you can help it.”

“No promises.”

Asami rolled her eyes. “Then call me up the next time you’re running from the police and I’ll try to clear my calendar.”

Korra laughed. “Sure thing, but we should try to arrange a more sedentary activity for the next time we meet. Or at least stretch before running.”

“Next time then,” Asami said, turning back down the alley. “Goodbye, Naga.”

Korra really wished she’d picked a better alias. It sounded like a dog’s name. “Bye, Asami.”

And with that, they both disappeared into the night.


* * *


“Were we followed?” Bolin glanced over his shoulder.

“Maybe,” Mako answered. His hands shook as he fumbled with his keys to the pro-bending arena. “I think we lost them though. Plus, most of the Equalists turned around to deal with the police raid.” His breath shook in a sigh of relief as he pulled the door open. “That was some lucky timing too. Another minute and I’d have been a goner.”

“You’re welcome,” Sakari said. She was still catching her breath as they started up the stairs inside the arena. “After we got the time and location, Bolin and I called in a tip to the police.”

“Good call,” Mako said. Frankly, he wasn’t sure he would have thought to do so if Bolin had been the one captured.

“The plan was,” Bolin said, “we’d hide out, wait to see you, and rescue you when the police busted in. Too bad they were taking too long.”

Bolin grabbed Mako’s arm when they reached a landing and pulled him into a hug. “No way I’m letting my big bro lose his bending.” Mako blinked, then returned the embrace.

“Thanks little brother,” he said. He turned to Sakari, who seemed to appreciate that they’d paused on the stairs. “And thanks you too, Sakari.”

She smiled. “Anytime. Why did they think you were a triad member anyway?” She inclined her head toward Bolin. “Bolin said you two left that nonsense behind.”

Mako rubbed the back of his neck. Even though Amon hadn’t touched him there, his skin was still crawling at how close he’d been. “I was working late at the factory,” he said, starting up the stairs again.

Sakari and Bolin started up the stairs after him. “Why?” Bolin asked. “You’ve been working late for months. We have enough for this season’s fee already.”

Hesitating on the next landing, Mako shrugged. “I... was hoping that, maybe, we could afford a celebratory dinner. You know, something special to kick off the season, since we can actually compete this time.” He flashed a small smile at Sakari, who weakly returned it.

“Mako...”

Bolin looked ready to pull him into another hug, so Mako turned and started up the next flight of stairs. “I got out of work to find Lightning Bolt Zolt and some Triple Threats trying to recruit lightning benders for their turf war.” Mako huffed. “Shady Shin kept following me and bugging me. I finally turned around to tell him to take his offer and—” Mako glanced at Sakari and adjusted his phrasing. “—find someone else to take it.”

He sighed as he pushed open the door to their floor. “That’s when the Equalists swept in, chi-blocking everyone.” His hands clenched. He hadn’t had time to get off one shot before they’d closed the distance and disabled him. “A minute later, they had us all tied up and tossed in a truck.”

Bolin shivered. “Well that’s only mildly terrifying and on top of the ‘take your bending forever’ bit.” He looked both ways down the hall before dashing over to the door to their loft. “Let’s get inside before I pee my pants.” He ducked inside.

Sakari and Mako followed at a more sedate pace, exchanging a look. Mako chuckled.

“Seriously, Bolin said, poking his head out of the doorway. “On the off chance any of those Equalists show up, there’s no better place to hold our ground than home sweet home.”

“Good idea,” Sakari said, taking a few bold strides over to the door. “It’s good to be home safe.”

Mako stopped and blinked at her. He glanced at Bolin, who was looking right back at him with a matching expression of surprise.

Sakari cleared her throat. “I mean, if it’s alright for me to stay...”

Bolin cocked an eyebrow at Mako. “I mean... she did save your ass, bro. Plus we’ve won two pro-bending matches together,” he said. “She’s the reason we made it to the quarterfinals.”

Mako took a deep breath. The 13-year old runaway had shown up and blown the competition out of the water, literally, at their waterbender tryouts. He had no hesitations about her abilities, especially after his rescue tonight, but she was another mouth to feed, another kid relying on him.

But still. He smiled. “Of course you can stay. Gotta pay you back somehow; no debts between teammates.” He paused, watching Sakari’s expression break into a broad smile. “Or family,” he added. “I’ve always wanted a little sister anyway.”

Sakari ran over and hugged him. He ruffled her hair and stuck his tongue out at Bolin over her head.

“Aw, whatever, Mako,” Bolin said, coming over to join the hug. “You’re not the only big brother around here anymore!”

Bolin tried to ruffle Mako’s hair, and he blocked it. The hug broke up into a series of mock-punches that further devolved into laughter.

Mako pulled back. “Come on Sakari, Bolin, let’s head inside. No point in hanging out in the hallway.”

She practically bounced as she followed him inside. And even if it meant one more mouth to feed, he found he didn’t mind it as long as it kept the kid happy.

A few minutes later, after he’d set up her bed, he saw her smile start to waver. Thankfully, he was able to answer her question before she could ask it.

“Yes, we’re sure,” he said. “You don’t ditch teammates or family. Otherwise I’d have kicked this bozo out a long time ago.” He jerked his head to Bolin, who pretended to be offended.

“Heeey,” he said, crossing his arms. “Well excuse me, I only saved your bending tonight, no big. But fine! Toss me out on the street!”

Mako rolled his eyes, but smiled. “Welcome to the Fire Ferrets, Sakari,” he said. “Permanent member now, trial over. Rest up now, lil sis. The quarterfinals are coming up. If everyone still has their bending tomorrow, we’re up early for practice.”

“Actually...” Sakari trailed off, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. “I was wondering if, since I’m an official part of the team and family now... if maybe my dog could sleep here too?”

Bolin turned to Mako with a smile. Mako held back a groan. “No,” he said. “Absolutely not.”

Sakari pouted. Then Bolin pouted.

“She can be a guard dog,” Sakari said.

Mako rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Augh, fine! But just on the lower level.” He yawned. At this point, he’d been kidnapped from the factory over a day ago. “Let’s just get some rest.”

Sakari and Bolin cheered. Mako left them to go get the damn dog and hauled himself up the ladder to his and Bolin’s sleeping area.

Despite everything, he fell into a deep, contented sleep.