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Instincts of a Fearful Body

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Chapter Fourteen: Turning the Tide
(Shifting waters only drown some) 

The airship pressed forward, into the sunlight. Yasuko smiled. Underneath her feet, she could feel the distant engine pulsing and whirling. Familiar calculations teased the edges of her thoughts as she watched Republic City appear just beyond the mountains.

“We’re here,” she murmured.

The corners of a picture frame pressed against her leg through her pocket. She didn’t need to pull it out to see Hiroshi’s face. Her husband had not lived to see this moment, had not even lived long enough to imagine its necessity. But Yasuko, and Asami too, had seen the movement through to this point. They had honored his memory.

The morning sun reflected off Yue Bay and Yasuko closed her eyes against the light for a moment.

She heard measured footsteps draw up beside her. She didn’t need to open her eyes to know it was Amon. When the light had lessened, she glanced to the side at him.

“Yasuko,” he said in greeting.

She nodded. “Amon.”

Side by side, they watched the airship rolling toward Republic City. At the edges of her vision, Yasuko could see the rest of the Equalist’s airship fleet bearing down alongside theirs.

“I’ve dreamed of this day for so long,” she said.

“Yes,” Amon said, “the time has come for the Equalists to claim Republic City as their own.”

It bothered Yasuko, as it sometimes did, that he referred to their movement in the third person—‘as their own’ instead of ‘as our own’—but she set it aside. In the minutia of phrasing, it didn’t matter. Amon was accustomed to speaking to the masses, appealing to the undecided and such.

“What’s the status on the council?” she asked.

“All secured, minus Tenzin,” Amon answered. “We just got radio confirmation. He escaped and made it to police headquarters.”

“Plan B then?” Yasuko had thought capturing Tenzin on a rooftop unlikely from the start.

“Indeed. Our operators are on standby, waiting for him to send his wire to the United Forces. Once it’s out, we’ll cut the lines and move in. Chief Beifong and Councilman Tenzin should be secure within the hour.”

Yasuko nodded. “Sounds as though we’re right on schedule.” She had been curious, at first, about Amon’s fixation on the council. As the ruling body of the United Republic, they were obviously of some importance. Time seemed to reframe his interest as a fixation on Tarrlok himself, even after they’d captured the councilman. Amon had ordered the man be kept under total solitary confinement.

She’d been mildly curious to see if he’d treat the other members of the council with the same odd hand, but it seemed thus far as though he didn’t care so much for them. The exception was Tenzin, but their plans for the airbenders placed him in a different category altogether.

An aide approached with news, so Yasuko and Amon retired from the window to the planning room. Consulting aides and reports, they updated a map of Republic City, noting which quadrants of the city were secure and which ones were demonstrating strong groundswell bender resistance. Special markers were placed to note the position of different squadrons and important Equalist leaders.

Despite the excitement, Yasuko felt she could hardly focus.

This map, these changes. She couldn’t have dreamed any of it ten years ago when the movement was young. Even in her wildest, most furious imaginations after Hiroshi’s death, rewriting the city was impossible.

“And where is Asami?”

Amon’s question brought her back to the present moment. “She’s with the mecha-tanks outside of Police Headquarters,” Yasuko said, placing her daughter’s marker on the map. “She’s either piloting one or she’s on standby.”

The aide frowned. “I don’t believe I heard her name in the last status report from that team…”

Yasuko pursed her lips. It wouldn’t make sense for Asami to be anywhere else but on the ground with her inventions. Her daughter had masterminded their ground forces and Yasuko had taken care of their air power.

She had opened her mouth to ask the aide a question when another aide ran in.

“Status update!” the aide announced.

Amon turned to the first aide. “It doesn’t matter.” Shifting his attention to the second aide, he nodded. “Go.”

She bowed briefly. “Our forces are approaching Air Temple Island, Amon. Quadrants four, eight, twenty-three, and twenty-seven are secure.”

“And Councilman Tenzin?” Yasuko asked.

“Confirmed captured.” The aide glanced down at a piece of paper. “In the battle outside Police Headquarters, we secured Councilman Tenzin and Police Captain Saikhan, at the cost of two mecha-tanks.”

“Where is the Chief of Police?” Amon asked, terse.

Swallowing hard, the aide glanced away. “The chief’s whereabouts are unknown, sir,” he said. “Forces are sweeping Police Headquarters as we speak.”

Amon was silent for a long moment. If Yasuko could have seen his expression, she doubted he would look pleased.

“Find Chief Beifong. And I want the rest of the airbenders secured, as well as the Sakari girl,” he said. “Shift our course to Air Temple Island. If required, I will deal with this matter personally, as it seems we’re having trouble with notable persons today.”

 

* * *

 

“We need to evacuate the island,” Mako repeated, reaching out a hand.

“Tenzin?!” Pema ignored him, slamming the radio button again. “No no no no. Air Temple Island to Police Headquarters. Air Temple Island to Police Headquarters.”

“Pema, I think they cut the line,” Mako said. “I’m sure Master Tenzin is fine, but we need to get out of here now.”

The door crashed open. Mako twisted around, ready to fight. Instead of Equalists, however, he found Bolin and Sonam, one of the White Lotus soldiers.

“Bro we gotta go,” Bolin said, seizing his shoulder.

Sonam moved into the room and laid a hand on Pema’s shoulder. “We’ve prepared a bison,” she said. “Pema, your children will not evacuate without you.”

As Bolin tugged Mako out of the room, he saw something harden in Pema’s gaze. She nodded. “Tenzin will join us later,” she said, turning toward the door.

“Did you guys get anything different off the White Lotus radio?” Mako asked as he and Bolin jogged to the courtyard.

“No, the Equalists are cutting lines all across the city,” he said. “Last thing we got was Tenzin sending a wire to the United Forces.”

Mako glanced over his shoulder. The airships were drawing over the city like a dark cloud, covering the sky along with the smoke that came from explosions on the ground. “Reinforcements would be nice.”

Somehow, Jinora and Sakari had managed to wrangle Ikki and Meelo onto a bison. Mako could see Pabu standing on the top of Meelo’s head, likely part of the plot to get him to stay on the bison. One of the acolytes was holding Rohan, who seemed to have picked up on the agitation around him and was crying. “Where’s mom?” Jinora called out when she saw them round the corner into the courtyard.

“Right behind us,” Bolin called back. “Get ready to fly!”

On the ground, Sakari had her face pressed against Naga’s nose, whispering frantic instructions.

“She’ll be fine,” Mako said, putting a hand on her back. “The Equalists aren’t after dogs, and she’s plenty smart. She’ll meet up with us later.”

Tears prickled at the corners of Sakari’s eyes when she turned to look at him and silently nodded.

“She’s a smart dog,” he said, cupping his hands together and holding them out. She planted a foot there and he boosted her up onto the bison before clambering on after her. Bolin launched himself up with an earthbending boost a beat later.

Sonam and Pema rounded the corner as Naga ran into the woods.

“The Equalists are on the island,” Sonam shouted. “The White Lotus will hold them off. Get the airbenders off the island!”

Sonam lifted Pema onto the bison with an earthbending platform. Pema had only just made it on when Equalists rounded the hill.

Somewhere behind him, Mako heard someone say ‘yip yip’ and the bison lifted into the air. All his focus was trained on the ground, however.

The mustached lieutenant was leading the pack, and they’d already closed the distance against multiple soldiers. Taken by surprise, the White Lotus failed to land more than a couple shots as the chi-blockers closed the distance between them. Within seconds, half the soldiers were incapacitated; the rest were quickly losing ground.

Then, from the back of the Equalists’ forces, he saw something coming for the bison.

“Get down!” he shouted, covering Jinora and Pema, who were closest to him.

A long cable shot out and arched over their heads, looping over the bison and dividing the saddle in half. Mako felt their momentum slow; the bison was already weighed down with so many people.

Then the cable yanked and everyone tumbled to one side. Mako looked over the edge to see where the force was coming from. “They have some kind of crank,” he said. “They’re going to pull the bison in!”

Just as he spoke, another cable came flying up toward them.

“Bolin, anchor me,” he shouted as he stood up.

Reaching back blindly, his hand found Bolin’s. He locked his grip on his brother’s forearm; Bolin matched the gesture and Mako didn’t need to look to see his brother had grounded himself into a solid base.

When the cable drew close, the end sprung open into a net with weighted ends. Mako pivoted, kicking out a wide blast of fire to knock it away. Only Bolin’s grip kept him from flying off the edge of the bison.

On the ground, the Equalists had pushed the White Lotus even farther back.

On the bison, Sakari, Jinora, and Pema were loosening the first cable’s grip on the bison.

In the sky, Mako could see more airships drawing closer, each of them bearing the Equalists’ red and black symbol.

Unless something dramatic changed, they weren’t going to make it away from the airships in time.

He stood up. “Don’t stop, no matter what.”

“Mako what are you doing?” Jinora sounded panicked behind him.

“We’ve almost cut the cable!” Sakari snapped.

He could see another two cables almost ready to fire on the ground. “Just. Go.”

All he had to do was sweep the courtyard, clear the Equalists’ ground forces just enough to let the the bison get out of range. From there, he could escape into the woods, then run the perimeter of the island; he knew the layout far better than the Equalists did.

Dimly, he recalled the hazy sight of the masked firebender, soaring through the arena on finals night. She’d guided her flight, a controlled falling really, with fire. When she’d landed, she’d softened the impact with a burst around her that conveniently took out the Equalists standing nearby.

“I’m gonna jump,” he said. “Don’t worry.”

Mako had spent a lot of time with airbenders recently. It would probably be fine. He’d been hearing a lot about gliding, and theory had to count for something.

Launching himself off the bison, his stomach seemed to fall into his throat. A frantic heartbeat later, he blasted a wave of fire out behind him. His arc wasn’t pretty, but a solid wave of fire carried him forward and he aimed himself for the center of the Equalist mass as he shifted his body for the landing.

Pulling up all the heat within himself, Mako took a deep breath. As he landed, he exhaled and sent every ounce of fire within him out and down. The balloon of flames under him steadied his landing, though the impact still rocked Mako’s knees, and flowed outward, knocking down a dozen Equalists.

But not all of them.

As the familiar, infuriating mustached lieutenant approached, standing between him and the cable-shooting devices, Mako kindled lightning in his palms. “Is it time for a rematch already?”

The lieutenant twirled his electrified sticks so they crackled and sparked. “Ready when you are, bender boy.”

“Mako, watch out!” Bolin’s voice sounded altogether too close.

Mako looked up right as his brother came hurtling out of the sky. Without any fire to guide his flight, all of the power came from his landing.

Leaping back as Bolin landed, Mako narrowly avoided the shockwave Bolin brought with him. The Earth rumbled out in a circle around him, launching the Lieutenant back against the wall of one of the Air Temple buildings.

“Bolin what are you doing here,” Mako snapped.

“Just following my favorite role model!” Bolin grinned at him and Mako couldn’t help but smile back.

Behind them, the White Lotus had managed something of a comeback, since Mako had disrupted the Equalists’ formation with his landing.

Then a roar reverberated across the island, at once familiar and terrifying.

Mako and Bolin’s focus swiveled from the lieutenant to the cable devices. Out of the woods near them, Naga surged onto the battlefield. She knocked the cranks aside with massive swipes of her paws, sending their Equalist operators scattering in the same motion. With one bite, she cut the cable still attached to the bison.

“Go Naga!” Bolin shouted.

To the side, Mako heard the lieutenant groan and move. Mako tapped Bolin’s shoulder as he turned toward the sound. “Naga’s taking care of the bison threats. I think you and I have a rematch to attend though.

Around them, some of the Equalists Mako had initially knocked down were starting to get up.

“I think we have some new match-ups to take care of too,” Bolin added.

They squared their stances back to back.

“I’m ready when you are,” Mako said.

“Born ready, bro.”

Mako spun, sending an arc of fire at the approaching Equalists’ feet. When they leapt into the air, they were met by a barrage of rocks to the chest. Catching movement out of the corner of his eye, Mako whirled and unleashed a series of fireballs at the chi-blockers. Bolin joined his attack by causing the ground beneath their feet to roll, enabling Mako to take them out with a few attacks.

A quick survey of the battlefield showed that the remaining White Lotus members had managed to regroup and were pushing back against the Equalists. Mako watched as Sonam and another earthbender took out a trio of chi-blockers. Sonam shouted orders for her troops to retrieve their chi-blocked comrades and fall back.

Meanwhile, Naga was proving quite capable of keeping the Equalists around the cable devices at bay. She clawed at any that dared to get too close. The chi-blockers had trained against human opponents, and their darting attacks had little effect against her. Even those armed with electrified gloves couldn’t land a solid blow. Occasionally Naga let out a whimper when one of the gloves zapped her, but the voltage wasn’t strong enough to hinder the polarbear dog.

“Mako, Bolin, time to retreat!” Sonam’s voice cut across the battlefield.

Mako dodged a chi-blocker’s strike, twisting out of the way to let Bolin get in another attack. His gaze flickered to the escaping air bison. It had pulled away from the airship above, and he estimated that they were finally outside of the range of the cables. He kicked at another assailant, repelling the attack with a wave of fire. “All right, let’s get out of here,” he said to Bolin. Calling back to Naga, he shouted, “Get out of here, girl!”

“Right behind you!” Bolin called. The ground shook for a moment, and a long column of earth shot upwards, clearing a path toward the woods as the remaining Equalists scrambled out of the way.

Mako grinned. “Nice work!” He took off running toward the trees. Taking a deep breath to center himself, he shot a wave of lightning behind him to discourage any pursuers. Bolin kept pace beside him, and they slowed to a quick jog once they reached the cover of the trees.

“Remember that route Ikki and Meelo showed us?” Mako asked, searching for the smaller trail that the younger airbenders had discovered.

“Way ahead of you,” Bolin said, darting ahead of him. The path took them closer to the cliff, but it would be harder for the Equalists to pursue them in numbers along the route.

They kept running until they reached the end of forest, following the winding trail along the island’s edge. The water from the bay stretched before them when they broke free of the trees. Mako glanced behind them and couldn’t see any sign of the Equalists.

For a beat, Mako thought everything was gonna be okay. He took a breath. Then Bolin stopped in his tracks. “The airship caught up to the bison!”

“No!” Mako watched in horror as the airship started corralling the bison. It couldn’t maneuver as quickly, but it was faster and its bulk allowed it to cut the bison off before the airbenders could leave the bay for open water.

At this distance, it was difficult to follow the action. Still, Mako tracked multiple nets and cable weapons firing at the bison. At first, the airbenders seemed to be doing a good job of keeping them at bay. Then he saw another figure stand up.

The sky shifted. Mako blinked. “No way…”

Sakari was pulling a cloud over. The sky was largely clear, but a piece of cloud was positively soaring their way. From the twin motions he could see, Jinora and Sakari were working double-time to pull the cloud toward them.

If they could bring over the cloud, they could obscure the bison and maybe escape. Or Sakari could pull the water out of the sky. With access to ice, to something solid, they could do more than just bat the cables away. They could trap the weapons or block them with a shield or, or—

The airship fired two nets at once. The bison swerved downward, but couldn’t escape.

One of the net’s weights clipped the shoulder of one of the standing figures. Mako shouted as he saw one of the girls fall.

“I think that’s Jinora,” Bolin said. It was hard to tell at this distance whether the colors were blue or orange.

Mako’s heart hammered in his chest. The falling figure was twisting in midair, but wasn’t gliding, wasn’t swirling the air around her. “It’s Sakari,” he said hoarsely, watching her tumble helplessly through the air, trying to stabilize her flight.

Above her, the airship snared the bison securely. The nets kept the airbenders on-board, securely trapped to the saddle.

Mako didn’t even turn at the sound of thundering footsteps. Then Naga dashed past him, leaping off the edge of the island toward Sakari.

“If she can pull the water toward her, break her fall against the water, she’ll be okay,” Bolin said. “Right?”

In the distance, it was hard to see, but the water seemed to move strangely around Sakari as she struck the surface. Below them, they heard Naga hit the water and start swimming.

“We gotta get off the island now,” Mako grabbed Bolin’s shoulder and pushed him into a jog. “We can rendezvous with Sakari at the contact point. She’ll be fine, and Naga will get to her soon.”

“Roger!” Bolin dug in his heels and put on a burst of speed, pulling ahead a few paces as the path wound away from the cliffs and back into the woods.

In case an emergency separated them, Mako had arranged for them to meet back up at the spot they’d taken shelter at by the manufacturing district. He’d had dropped by once or twice after they’d moved to Air Temple Island and it seemed as untouched as it did after Finals. They’d practiced this. They were gonna make it.

“We’ll rescue the airbenders after we rendezvous with Sakari,” he called forward to Bolin.

Mako’s only warning was a rush of air behind him. Then someone crashed into his back, feet right between his shoulder blades. It knocked the breath out of him and sent him sprawling on the ground.

Before Mako had even stopped rolling, a foot planted itself on the back of his head.

“Hello again.”

“Augh!” Mako roared as he recognized the voice. It was that damn Lieutenant!

Behind him, he could hear the man’s kali sticks crackling with electricity. Mako grimaced and ground his face into the dirt so he could twist his body, shooting lightning up at the man.

The Lieutenant dodged, but in the process he moved his foot off of Mako, who swept the ground with fire as he leapt to his feet.

“Here for another rematch?” he asked. He and Bolin had kicked his ass before. Mako knew the range of his kali sticks now. He could do this.

To Mako’s surprise, the other man smiled. “No,” he said. “I’m just an escort.”

He stepped to the side. The fire kindling in Mako’s hands flickered at the sight of Amon, flanked by two more Equalists.

“No,” he whispered.

Like at the Revelation, Amon’s eerie presence seemed to roll out ahead of him in a wave. Fear was almost paralyzing, but Mako choked it back.

“Get the other brother,” the Lieutenant ordered the two other Equalists, pointing them in the direction Bolin had been running.

“Oh no you don’t.” Mako drew a line of lightning between his fingers, but before he could shoot it at them, the Lieutenant was back on him. It took everything Mako had to keep him from closing the distance between them and bringing the kali sticks to bear.

Keeping Amon visible in his periphery was even harder, but the man seemed content to simply stand and watch the battle for the moment.

Mako needed to get away. He’d gotten away at the Revelation. He’d do it again.

Drawing on his reserves, he waited for the Lieutenant to be charging right at him, then loosed a blast of fire and dropped into a foot-first slide. If Mako could take the man off-guard, knock him off his feet and get behind him, then he’d be clear to dash into the woods. He’d set them on fire behind him and cut off the Lieutenant and Amon so he could find Bolin.

The slide carried him forward, knocking him right into the Lieutenant’s ankles and sending the man sprawling. As he fell, however, the tip of his kali stick clipped Mako’s shoulder.

Mako felt slow as he scrambled to his feet at the end of the slide. He’d made it to one knee when a cold hand seized his neck from behind.

“Don’t leave so soon.”

Amon’s touch froze him as though he’d been dunked in ice-water from the inside out. Whether it was fear or something else, every part of his body came to a halt.

Behind him, Mako could hear the Lieutenant getting to his feet, laughing darkly.

“Where are you meeting up with the Sakari girl?” Amon asked.

“Ha!” Mako summoned a hollow laugh. “As if I’d tell you,” he said.

All he had to do was turn his wrist and shoot Amon with lightning. That’s all he needed, just a small turn to point his fingers in the right direction. Unlike fire, he didn’t need to move to generate lightning.

“I believe you may want to reconsider,” Amon said. He gripped the base of Mako’s neck a little tighter, pulling his head back.

He was almost there. Something more than fear was holding him in place, some power of Amon’s that had seized his whole body. He was so close though, his fingers trembling with the effort. He just had to keep Amon talking, get him careless.

“If I told you where she was going, it would take all the fun out of tracking her down,” he said.

Bolin could always jabber on and get people talking with him, but the talent felt far from Mako’s reach. It was easier to gather the lightning up from his core and pull it toward his fingertips. The heat within him welled up, pressing back against Amon’s aura.

Above him, Mako could see Amon’s other hand, held out in a threat. “If you tell me where she’s going, I’ll let you keep your bending.

Mako twisted his hand the last inch. “I don’t cut deals with monsters,” he said. Heat flooded his body, almost superseding Amon’s chill touch as lightning kindled in his palm.

In the heartbeat before the electricity left his fingertips, Amon dropped his other hand and pressed his thumb to Mako’s forehead.

“We’ll find her anyway,” he said as the heat died at Mako’s fingertips.

In an instant, the cold from before returned. This time it seemed to flood his body and set in his bones.

For a beat, his mind didn’t recognize his body as his own. Amon released him and Mako distantly felt himself fall to the ground as a chill ocean gust rolled through the clearing. Dirt pressed against the scratches on his face and the heat of the pain was the only familiar feeling.

He’d heard that firebenders ran hotter, that their bodies ran warmer than other benders and non-benders.

Above him, the Lieutenant and Amon were speaking and Mako couldn’t hear anything but a muted rumble. The world seemed to be falling away around him. Another cool breeze rolled through and he shivered. He’d never felt their edge like this.

The ground seemed to shiver with him and the falling sensation intensified.

Mako blinked his eyes open and squinted as a crack appeared on the dirt in front of him.

The earth fell away under him right as the Lieutenant said, “Wait…”

Mako tumbled gracelessly through the ground, into the ground. No, into a tunnel!

He squinted and caught sight of his brother’s face an instant before Bolin closed the tunnel above them. “Bolin?”

“I’m right here Mako,” he said. He reached out and found Mako’s shoulder in the dark, then pulled him to his feet. “I’m here now, are you alright?”

It was pitch black in the tunnel and Mako felt his fingers twitch instinctively as he reached for light to result. None did, and he shivered again, struggling to keep his feet as Bolin started moving forward. “No…”

Normally he’d have tried to shield Bolin from the truth, tried to protect his kid brother as best he could.

He felt Bolin stiffen through their held hands. He stopped and paused to close more of the tunnel behind them. “I… I was too late, wasn’t I,” he said.

Mako wanted to deny it, wanted to brush it off and make an excuse. He could protect Bolin from the truth, just for a little bit. Just for one more second.

But that wouldn’t insulate his brother from the threats beyond their escape tunnel.

“Amon took my bending,” he rasped. “It’s gone.”

Mako tried to look down at his hands, eyes straining in the darkness. His legs wobbled again and he stumbled against Bolin.

His brother caught him and pulled him into a tight hug. “I’m so sorry, Mako,” he whispered. “It’s gonna be okay. We’ll figure something out.” He paused a beat and Mako could feel Bolin shouldering his weight, testing if he could carry him.

“Let’s get out of here,” Mako said. The tunnel was too cold, too dark. Too distant from the fire he was missing. If he could only get back in the sunlight, he would be that much more whole.

“Roger,” Bolin said. He hefted an arm under Mako’s shoulders without asking, supporting him as they started walking down the tunnel.

In the distance, Mako could see a small light. Around them, the tunnel had widened. Bolin must have dropped into one of the maintenance tunnels from when they first built Air Temple Island. It would have taken some fast thinking to calculate where Mako was, relative to where the maintenance tunnel ended.

He let his eyes close, but could still envision the speck of light behind his eyelids. He’d protected them for so long. For now, he could let Bolin take over.

Exhaustion overtook him then. The last thing he felt was Bolin picking him up to carry him out. 

 

* * *

 

Asami thought the hardest part about reaching the United Forces’ mid-ocean base would be convincing them not to shoot her down before she could land. She quickly realized, as she began climbing out of the cockpit of her stolen Equalist biplane, that convincing them to listen to her before arresting her was going to be the greater challenge.

Nearly two dozen soldiers surrounded her, regarding her with cold eyes and combat stances. They didn’t immediately swarm to seize her, so Asami took that as a good sign. One of the soldiers, a woman wearing an officer’s uniform, approached. “You will state your name and reason for landing here,” the woman said. Her gaze hardened at the sight of the Equalist insignia on Asami’s plane.

Asami had considered removing the symbol before she took off flying, but she had to prove that the Equalists had an air force ready for deployment. “My name is Asami Sato, and I’ve brought urgent news about the Equalist plans concerning the United Forces. I must speak with one of the generals present.”

From what she could glean from the Equalist reports, Asami knew that General Iroh was present on this base. It had taken her most of the morning to fly out of here, and she had to plead her case soon or she would run out of reasonable excuses for her absence. In the chaos of the ground-invasion of Republic City, her absence wouldn’t be overly-missed. If she didn’t get back by that evening, however, there was no way her mother could miss her.

“And where did you get this information?”

Asami held the woman’s gaze, refusing to duck her head. “I was a member of the Equalists.” The past-tense felt strange on her tongue.

A murmur broke out through the crowd, and one of the soldiers started forward as if to attack her.

The officer held up a hand to stop him. “You admit to being a member of the Equalists, fly here in an Equalist plane, and expect us to believe a word you have to say?” Though her tone had hardened, she seemed more skeptical than angry.

“My brother lost his bending because of you!” one of the soldiers shouted.

“You expect us to believe your lies?” another voice called.

Other angry shouts joined the first, many calling for her detainment.

“What is going on here?” A male voice cut across the airstrip, and all chatter died. The soldiers around Asami shifted, and a man wearing a red military jacket approached. The soldiers parted to accommodate his approach, then closed ranks around him. The man appeared to be in his mid-thirties and wore authority like a cloak around his shoulders.

Asami straightened. Hopefully she could convince this man to listen to her.

The man stopped a few feet from her, regarding her for a moment. His eyes flickered to her plane before settling on the officer. “Colonel Yi, report.”

“Sir, this woman claims to be an Equalist with information,” the colonel said. “She is acting alone as far as we can tell. She made radio contact ten minutes ago, claiming to be a non-combatant and requesting permission to land. Our scouts have not reported any other planes in the area. I can have her apprehended—”

The man shook his head. “I will speak with her first.” Turning to Asami, he said, “I am General Iroh.”

Her eyes widened. General Iroh was a well-known name. He was the grandson of the former Fire Lord Zuko after all.

After a beat, he prompted, “And you are?”

She bowed her head slightly. “My name is Asami Sato.”

His eyebrows jumped. “Sato? As in the Sato family that owns Future Industries.”

Asami took a deep breath. There was no turning back from this confession. “Yes, the very same.” Her mother would be taking a public role in the Equalists starting with the takeover anyway. Preserving the family reputation was pointless at this stage.

Another round of shock whispers relayed through the crowd.

General Iroh frowned at that, expression thoughtful. After a moment, he said, “And you say that you have information concerning the Equalists?”

Asami nodded. “The Equalists have planned a trap for the United Forces navy. I’ve come here with information regarding the attack.”

General Iroh’s eyes widened a fraction. “Very well,” he said after a moment. “I will hear what you have to say. Follow me.”

Relief coursed through Asami.  “I have also brought some technology to combat the Equalist machines,” she said. “I just need to retrieve them on my plane.”

“Very well,” General Iroh said.

Asami could feel the stares of all the soldiers as she climbed back up to her cockpit to retrieve the suitcase holding her electromagnetic disruptive devices from the second seat. Though she tried to ignore the words, she could hear Colonel Yi speaking with the general.

“Sir,” Colonel Yi started to say. “She could be lying.”

“And if she is telling the truth, she could be saving us from this alleged trap,” Iroh continued. “At the very least we should hear her out before making any judgments.” He said something else in a softer tone that Asami couldn’t catch. When she glanced back at him, his gaze was focused on her biplane, frowning at the sight of it.

She climbed back down and turned to face General Iroh. “I’m ready to go,” she said.

Colonel Yi intercepted her before she could approach the general. “I need to inspect this case before you go any further. Your plane will also be inspected while you deliver your information.”

Asami pursed her lips. They didn’t have time for this, but she wasn’t in a position to argue. Trying to circumvent their search would only waste more time. “Of course.” She set the case on the deck and opened it, then stepped back.

Around them, General Iroh had dismissed most of the gathered crewmembers, though they lingered at the edges hoping to catch a glimpse. Colonel Yi motioned one over to her and they pulled out one of Asami’s inventions, turning it over in their hands.

She’d worked nearly all night to repackage it from a prototype into something portable and usable. She’d built the original prototype into the suitcase itself, then made a set of smaller versions shaped like a remote.

Asami pointed to the red button in the center as Colonal Yi brushed a finger over it. “Don’t press that,” she said. "It will shoot out a pair of spring-loaded prongs, attached to the device by electrical cords. Upon both of them making contact with something that completes the circuit, such as the side of an airplane, it will send out a localized electromagnetic pulse that will disable the device it’s attached to.”

“Intriguing, if it works as you’ve described,” the colonel said, passing the device to the soldier she’d motioned over. The two of them whispered back and forth, appearing to debate the plausibility of Asami’s device, when General Iroh stepped forward.

When Colonel Yi made to object, he held up a hand. “You’re holding one and it hasn’t hurt you yet,” he said, reaching into the case to pick up one of the handheld units. “This certainly doesn’t look like any weapon I’ve ever seen,” he said. “But it should be able to disable the Equalist technology? The information we’ve received has mentioned... mecha tanks, of some sort.”

Asami nodded, casting her eyes downward. Her mother had done the initial tank sketches, but Asami had been their primary designer. Her attention to the tanks, along with the idea to design the forklift interiors suited for double duty, had freed Yasuko to focus her attentions on the Equalists’ devastating air power.

If she could convince the United Forces to work with her, maybe she could undo the devastation of both their inventions.

“Okay, follow me,” Iroh directed. “You can give me the full explanation after you’ve told me about this attack.” He turned his gaze to the crowd that had re-gathered around them. “Return to your posts. Now is not the time to be shirking your duties. I want a standard engineering team looking over this plane immediately. And Colonel Yi, you will act as Ms. Sato’s escort for the duration of her stay on our base.”

“Yes, sir.” Though Colonel Yi did not look as suspicious, she still regarded Asami coolly.

Asami had expected suspicion and hostility when she arrived. Cool looks were fine. She would just have to do her best to prove that her information was true and that she was sincere in wanting to stop the Equalists. Retrieving her devices and closing her suitcase, she followed after the general.

Iroh led her to a meeting room inside the base. A map of Republic City and the surrounding area had been spread across a conference table, and various figures marked the positions of the United Forces and Equalists. Asami was dismayed to see how much of the city had already fallen under Equalist control. She knew that they would quickly gain the upper hand in the fighting, but she had hoped that the takeover would last longer.

More disturbing still were the gaps in the map where the United Forces apparently had no intelligence. Apparently the Equalists’ plan to cut the city’s connections with the outside world had been largely successful.

Other officers had gathered around the table, and they looked up at Iroh’s entrance. “General, we’ve received a message from Councilman Tenzin requesting reinforcements to help repel the Equalists,” one of them said. “Our fleet is ready to deploy at your command.”

Asami’s heart leapt into her throat. “The message is a trap,” she blurted. At her words, all attention focused on her.  She straightened instinctively, her mother’s lessons on how to keep a room’s attention cycling through her head. The memories mixed with their last council meeting, when they’d reviewed the final plan of attack on Republic City. “The Equalists have an air force ready to attack your navy the moment it sails into Yue Bay. They allowed the councilman to send the message before taking him captive.”

A moment of silence followed her statement.

“Where did you come by this information?” one of the officers asked.

“I was with the Equalists,” Asami said. “I’m an engineer, the designer of their ground forces’ technology.”

“What?” An officer with a thin mustache glared at her before addressing Iroh. “General, why have you brought a known Equalist here? We can’t trust a word she says. She just admitted to developing those mecha tank monstrosities!”

Iroh ignored him. “How many planes could the Equalists deploy at once?”

“About three dozen,” Asami said.

A ripple of concern rolled out at the number. Beside her, Asami sensed the colonel stiffen.

“General, surely you don’t believe this woman’s nonsense,” the officer said. “We have no proof that the Equalists have an air force aside from their airships, let only one of that size.”

“Ms. Sato brought the proof with her,” Iroh countered. “She flew one of the Equalist planes to our base, even at the risk of our forces shooting her down. None of the reports I received on the Equalists mentioned planes, so I was surprised to see one on our airstrip. And if the Equalists have successfully crafted one biplane, they have the capability to construct others.”

Asami met his gaze sharply, and she caught the faintest smirk on Iroh’s face. It seemed that he’d figured out her reason for arriving in an Equalist plane. And so far he believed her. Having his support made the task before her less daunting.

“The Equalists built the planes in a secret base in the mountains northwest of the city,” Asami said. She walked over to the map and indicated the location. “The plans were kept a secret to make the ambush of your navy as devastating as possible.”

An officer with a scar crossing her left eyebrow studied the map.  “Hm. That location is close enough that the Equalists could hide their planes there and easily deploy them against our forces.” After a pause, he set a marker on the location.

Asami set her case on the table and opened it. In addition to the electromagnetic pulse devices, she’d brought two sets of blueprints: one of her device, hastily pulled together from her notes and the last-minute build; the other was the set her mother had given her, laying out the design for the biplanes. “While I don’t have any photographic proof of the number of biplanes that have been constructed, I have brought the blueprints to give you more information about the planes and their capabilities.”

The officer with the moustache took the blueprints from her and flipped through the pages.

“Each plane is capable of carrying four torpedoes in addition to multiple bombs,” Asami said, for the benefit of the officers who couldn’t see the plans. “They were designed specifically to combat the United Forces battleships.” She paused. “Oh, and the Equalists are likely scattering naval mines throughout Yue Bay as we speak.

The scarred officer frowned. “If she’s telling the truth, then we would face heavy casualties if we deployed our fleet now.”

Iroh frowned, studying the map. “And if we do nothing, we’ll abandon Republic City to Equalist control.”

Asami took a deep breath. Time to bring up her second point. “I’ve built a device that uses a controlled electromagnetic pulse capable of disabling the Equalist planes, but I can’t cause any lasting damage on my own.”

Iroh turned his attention back to her. “What are you proposing?”

“If you delay the deployment of your fleet, I could sneak a small contingent of your soldiers into the Equalist airfield. The security to the rear of the base is not as tight because of its remote location, and I can disable the electric fence surrounding the airfield. If we disable the biplanes, you could then deploy your fleet to take back Republic City.”

Silence greeted her words, and Asami remained still, waiting for the United Forces’ response.

“It could be a trap,” the woman with the scar said with a frown.

“But our fleet will not be of much help to Republic City if the Equalist planes ambush us,” Iroh added. “Our fleet is capable of dealing with the airships with existing surface-to-air capabilities, and that would buy a squadron of waterbenders time to clear the bay of mines.”

“How does this device of yours work?” the mustached officer asked.

Asami procured the second set of blueprints and held up one of the devices. “It shoots out a pronged wire that carries an electromagnetic pulse that disables the electricity in a device.”

The man studied the blueprints, brow furrowed.

“Well, Commander?” Iroh asked after a moment.

“In theory it looks like her device would work, but I would like a demonstration if possible.”

Iroh nodded. “I too would like to see how this device works. Lieutenant Zhu, have one of the automobiles in repair brought up for a demonstration.” He paused. “And one of the micro-tanks too, for good measure.”

The lieutenant in question nodded and left the room.

“We will delay sending our forces for now,” Iroh said. “If we are cautious, we can prevent the Equalists from gaining the advantage over us. If we can prove that your device works, then I’ll deploy a squadron of soldiers overnight by speedboat to rendezvous with you here.” He indicated a location near the mountains housing the Equalist airfield. The officer from before added another marker to the map. It was located just far enough away that the United Forces’ arrival wouldn’t be noticed immediately by the Equalists. “The earliest my troops could get there is by tomorrow morning.”

Asami released the breath she had been holding. A part of her wanted to rush over to the airfield now and incapacitate the planes, but she knew that a rushed plan would fail in minutes. If she was to help the United Forces take out the biplane threat, then she would have to be patient. “Very well. I can meet your forces there and lead them to the base.” She could come up with an excuse for her mother in the morning. Soon enough, she wouldn’t need to make any excuses anymore.

Iroh nodded. “Then it’s decided. Now onto this demonstration of yours.”

The other officers filed out of the room. Colonel Yi put a hand on Asami’s elbow to keep her back until everyone but General Iroh had left.

Then he stopped her on her way out of the room. “Thank you for this information. A lot of lives would have been lost if you hadn’t warned us about this trap.”

“Thank you for believing me,” Asami responded. “I’m... honestly surprised that you trusted me, even after I admitted that I was an Equalist.”

Iroh smiled. “My grandfather chased the Avatar across the world for months until he had a change of heart and became one of Aang’s strongest allies. Because of his story, I believe in the ability of people to change. No matter your past with the Equalists, I can see that you are honest in your desire to stop them now. I believe you’re in the middle of finding the right path just as my grandfather was decades ago.”

“I—thank you,” Asami said, ducking her head. The words felt inadequate, but she didn’t know how else to respond.

Iroh nodded. “Now let’s go see what your device can do.”

Asami nodded. She’d show them what she'd made, and then she’d need to rush back to Republic City before her absence caused a stir. The hours until the next morning stretched dauntingly before her, but the first steps in her plan were already in motion.

Tomorrow, she could stop the violence before it got any worse. Despite the tension in her muscles, Asami’s heartbeat felt steady in her chest. Finally, she had found the right path.

 

* * *

 

The radio station crackled again, layering the jazz music with static.

“Korra, would you go readjust the knob?” Ghazan asked without looking away from Ming-Hua. She was doing better, but not exactly great. When they brought her food, she ate. When they pressed a cup of water to her lips, she drank. As time passed, she she spoke more and she answered direct questions. Still, her primary mode of communication seemed to be in silent, weighted looks she levied at Ghazan. In return, he would crouch by her bedside with rapt attention.

The exchanges could last for an hour at a time. They were enough to make anyone feel like an intruder.

“I’ve got it,” Korra said, getting up from Ming-Hua’s bedside. Beyond the apartment, the distant sound of fire and rioting had been the day’s persistent soundtrack. She fiddled with the radio, trying to get back to the half-clear music from before. Every radio station within the city had been shut down; this jazz station, based on the other side of the mountains, was the only thing left.

Trying to fix the signal only seemed to make the problem worse, however.

“Try the other way, Korra,” P’li called from across the room.

“I’ve tried both ways,” she replied, almost letting an edge slip into her voice. Though P’li was speaking to her more lately, Korra felt as though something still lay unresolved between them.

The radio crackled under her hand, roaring with static for a beat before coming into focus.

“Good Evening, Republic City.”

Korra whipped her hand away from the radio. “That’s Amon,” she whispered

“What?” P’li walked over as he continued.

“This is your new leader, Amon.”

P’li and Korra exchanged a look. “That was fast,” P’li noted.

Korra nodded. “Yeah…”

“As you know,” Amon continued, “today was our day of liberation. Today, we secured the council and successfully swept over the city. Though a few minor pockets of resistance are still fighting, they will soon be eliminated or equalized.”

Korra’s heart ached. In that moment, she ached to be out in her mask, fighting alongside the benders of Republic City.

Even if she did figure out how energybending worked, how could she cure half the city’s bending population?

“Though we still have several challenges to face in the way of fully establishing the city’s new order,” Amon continued, “you may rest assured that life will assume a better, more equal, sense of order soon. We will be restructuring the whole United Republic into an equalized nation, so look forward to being a part of the next chapter of this glorious history.”

“Gotta say, I’m feeling the urge to skip town just about now,” P’li said, voice dry.

Korra didn’t reply, caught between the urge to run and the desire to fight Amon until the city came crumbling down around her. His vision of Republic City wasn’t the place she’d fallen in love with since the day she’d arrived. Aang had envisioned the city differently, a place for peoples of all nations to live and call home. His plans were flawed, but the idea was solid; Korra refused to let it die.

“Though the coming days will bring more announcements, for now I leave you with an invitation,” Amon said. “Join me, tomorrow at noon at the former pro-bending arena. You’ll hear speeches from several Equalist leaders, including some you already know through their other roles in Republic City’s public life. Then, for the main event, I will rid the world of airbending. Forever.”

“No,” Korra breathed. She’d hoped the airbending kids had escaped before the invasion started.

Amon’s message ended, leaving them with static and crackly jazz music.

P’li reached out a hand and shut the radio off. “Zaheer will want to hear about this,” she mused.

Korra nodded. “Yeah. When is he—“

The front door crashed open. Korra and P’li whipped around. They had already flown into combat stances before realizing that the intruder was Zaheer.

“You’re back! Oh, spirits, Zaheer,” Korra felt herself verging on babbling as she ran over to him and tried to suppress it. “On the radio, Amon. He just announced an event tomorrow about the—“

“The airbenders,” Zaheer cut in. “I’m aware.” He shed his coat and took a moment to exchange a smile with P’li, who’d followed after Korra. “I want you to calm down, Korra. I already know and I have a plan.”

“Why are you late?” Ghazan’s voice was biting. The fact that Zaheer had continued his undercover role in the Equalists was still a point of contention within the group. Korra understood the need for them to gather as much information about Amon and the Equalist movements as possible, but Ghazan had been making caustic remarks all day about how Zaheer had taken it too far in participating in the city’s takeover.

Korra turned. Across the main room, Ghazan had left Ming-Hua’s side to stand protectively in front of the door to their bedroom. He crossed his arms. “It’s past the time you said to expect you back from the Equalist undercover stuff.”

Her gaze swiveled back to Zaheer and Korra briefly felt a sense of vertigo. In some reversal of everything normal, Ghazan was the one angry and stern, demanding an explanation in regards to curfew. Zaheer was the latecomer, busy attending to non-Red Lotus matters.

“The sector I was assigned to took longer than expected to subdue,” Zaheer said, voice level. “In the process, Yuna was injured. I stayed back at the end to assist her back to her dwelling-place. As soon as I was able, I returned.”

Awkward silence fell over the apartment. Korra tried to exchange a glance with P’li, but the other woman’s gaze was fixed, perplexed, on Zaheer. Zaheer, for his part, was meeting Ghazan’s eyes steadily. Across the room, Ghazan had crossed his arms and pursed his lips, as though unsure how to respond.

Zaheer was always the one who pointed out when someone else’s priorities were out of line with the Red Lotus’ mission. Korra wasn’t even sure how to broach the topic when the situation was reversed in some fashion. She couldn’t even say for certain that P’li, Ghazan, and quiet Ming-Hua were thinking the same thing as she was.

A light rain began to fall on the roof above them, softening the silence with the soft rhythm of droplets.

Korra’s focus shifted to the bag at Zaheer’s side, where he’d kept his Equalist garb. She briefly wondered where, in the Equalists’ invasion, Asami had found herself.

“He’s a world leader now.” Ming-Hua’s voice pierced the quiet, even from the other room. “Amon just announced himself the leader of Republic City.”

Ghazan had spun around when Ming-Hua started speaking. Now, he turned back to Zaheer with a vengeance. “Now then!” he crowed. “Surely, finally! Our mission is to take him out!”

All eyes moved to Zaheer.

Korra could hear her heartbeat in her ears, second only to the sound of Ghazan’s heavy breaths.

By the door, Zaheer’s expression was inscrutable. Attuned to his spirit, however, Korra felt it fluctuate.

After an eternity, he inclined his head. “It is time,” he said.

Before Ghazan could interject, Zaheer continued, “I have a plan now. It has to do with Amon’s announcement.” His eyes met Korra’s. “We must not allow him to eliminate the airbenders. That aside, his power has overreached. His actions are an offense against the freedom of Republic City. He has conveniently deposed of the council and neutered the police force. I have no doubt that the Equalists have similar plans for the United Forces, although that information is above my clearance in the organization.

“If we eliminate Amon, I have no doubts that the Equalists will crumble or fold inward after. They have no other public figures who can assume Amon’s mantle and it’s a cult of personality. They have nobody else who can take his place, nobody else who holds his power.”

P’li cut in. “So if the Equalists do all the legwork in eliminating Republic City’s existing power structures, all we need to do is kill Amon and prevent them from fully establishing a new order.”

Zaheer smiled. “Exactly.”

“Saving the airbenders in the process, though,” Ghazan said. “Because that’s the important part?” He sneered at Zaheer. “For a moment, I thought you’d remembered to care about us.

Zaheer’s smile vanished. “It’s not about that. Now is the optimal time to strike, all other factors aside—“

“Maybe I don’t want to set the other factors aside!” Ghazan yelled, crossing the room. “Now is the conveniently ‘optimal time to strike’ now that the last scraps of Guru Laghima’s people are about to vanish! It wasn’t the optimal time after Amon took Ming-Hua’s bending though! You couldn’t even go on the mission with them that night because you were attending to Equalist duties for your cover.”

Just a few paces from Zaheer now, Ghazan spat on the floor. “If it’s even a cover anymore. Everything is more important to you than being here right now. Who is this Yuna anyway? Did she fight with you on Whale Tale island? Did she risk her life to kidnap the Avatar out of the Southern Water Tribe?” He stepped closer, until his pointed finger was almost touching Zaheer’s chest. “Is she going to help you off Amon?”

The question rang in the air.

The air between the two men seemed to shimmer, and Korra felt a disturbance roll off Zaheer’s spirit in a wave. When she had to blink, Korra half-expected Ghazan’s finger to be gone when she looked again.

P’li shifted, taking a subtle step behind Zaheer’s shoulder. She leveled a cautious look at Ghazan.

“No,” Zaheer said. “She isn’t.” His tone was a masterwork of control. Korra could sense a veneer of his agitation, but not a bit of it showed in his voice.

“But neither are you, Ghazan,” he continued.

Ghazan recoiled, mustache pulled in confusion. “What?”

“Look at me and tell me you’re stable enough to maintain control on a critical mission.” When Ghazan didn’t immediately reply, Zaheer continued. “Taking out Amon will require that we eliminate the symbolism of his authority. The hold he has over the city is due, in large part, to public perception of him as a dominant spiritual authority. The hold he has on the Equalists is a more intense version of the same, he’s a messiah to them.”

Zaheer turned toward Korra. “In one move, we will both eliminate and replace him.”

“Wait, you mean me?” Korra stepped back.

“It’s time to finish Ming-Hua’s mission,” Zaheer replied. “And, conveniently, you already have a persona to employ, a mask to match his.”

Korra’s gut clenched. She felt a dinner threaten to make a reappearance. “W-what are you talking about?”

“We know about the Blue Spirit, Korra,” P’li said. She glanced at the others. “We’ve known for a while.”

Despite the continued tensions between him and Zaheer, Ghazan managed a tight smile. “We watched you at Finals,” he said. “Your style is unmistakable, even at a distance.”

Korra hunched her shoulders. “Oh.” She felt suddenly childish, as though her guardians had caught her playing dress up. It had been one thing for Ming-Hua to know. It was another to realize that all four of them, all along, had played along with the charade, let her pretend she’d been keeping a secret.

“Republic City has been good for you,” Zaheer said. He stepped away from Ghazan to approach her. “Your freedom has led to great things, and we’re proud of the efforts you’ve made using your Blue Spirit persona.” He laid a hand on her shoulder. “Now, in fact, it’s critical to the plan.”

“So what is the plan?” Ghazan asked. He’d crossed his arms again, but had backed down the confrontational notes in his voice. Still, the potential rumbled beneath the surface, carving lines of tension across his forehead.

“We’re going to reveal Korra as the Avatar,” Zaheer said, “and the city’s new spiritual authority. All this at the same time she eliminates Amon.”

“What!” Korra stepped back. “That’s crazy.”

Ghazan squinted. “That undoes all the secrecy we’ve maintained for years.”

Zaheer shook his head. “There’s no point to building up the secrecy and maximizing the value of that lotus tile unless we’re willing to play it at some point. Now is the time.” His eyes met Korra’s. “I will be in the crowd to influence the reaction. Tonight, we’ll review your script. I will give you the words to say. More than anyone here, I’ve explored all sides of the current conflict in Republic City. I’ve worked out the perfect angle to win you Equalists, sympathizers, benders, and the undecided.”

“And in the end, Korra will take out Amon?” P’li asked.

Zaheer nodded. “In front of the whole arena, ideally.”

Korra swallowed the massive lump in her throat. Before she could speak, however, Ming-Hua appeared in the doorway of her room.

“This is dangerous,” she said, voice ringing like an omen. Though Ghazan had done all he could to take care of her, combed and pinned her hair, cleaned her face, washed her clothes, he couldn’t clean the hollow expression from her face. Ming-Hua’s gaze pierced the room and landed on Zaheer. “And if she fails? You are gambling everything on this fight.”

“Only because I know the odds,” he said. “We stand to win everything and more. We position the Avatar publicly and win the whole city in one swoop and then we ready ourselves for Harmonic Convergence.” He nodded to Korra. “She will need to be public by then anyway, to announce the uniting of the spiritual and physical worlds.”

Ming-Hua just shook her head and leaned heavily against the doorframe. Ghazan was by her side in an instant. “And what about Tarrlok?" he asked, looking across the room at Zaheer.

Zaheer pursed his lips. “There is no room in the plan for distractions,” he said. “Tarrlok is not a priority.”

Ghazan’s eyes narrowed. For a moment, Korra thought he was about to pick another fight with Zaheer. Instead, however, he returned his focus to Ming-Hua. As Zaheer gestured for P’li to come over, Korra could hear Ghazan asking Ming-Hua if she wanted something to eat and helping her back to bed.

“And what role am I to play in this plan?” P’li asked.

Zaheer sighed. “If I could trust Ghazan to stay here, I would have you in the arena with us, ready to assist from the upper reaches by the dome. As it is, I believe it best if you stay back for this one.”

Korra frowned. “I don’t think that’s necessary,” she whispered. “Ghazan wouldn’t leave Ming-Hua alone.”

“If his temper gets the best of him, I don’t think anything would stop him from going after Tarrlok and Amon,” Zaheer said. His voice invited no argument. “Earlier today, I overheard something that suggests Tarrlok has been moved to Air Temple Island. His death is no longer critical, though I am curious about Amon’s odd treatment of him.”

P’li hesitated, then nodded. “I understand,” she said. “I’ll stay back and keep things calm here.”

“Good.” Zaheer turned his focus to Korra. “Our focus right now needs to be your confrontation with Amon. I have the layout for the spectacle tomorrow at the arena. We’ll review your script and your cues. As an Equalist, I can get you into the arena without inspection. From there, we’ll need to separate and you need to know your part in order to kill Amon.”

Her whole body seemed liable to start trembling, but Korra nodded. “Alright,” she said. “What do I need to do?”