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The Avatar & The Engineer

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Across the bay on Air Temple Island Asami too was having difficulty sleeping. Now that she was alone in her room and the house was silent there was nothing now to distract from multitude of thoughts and emotions that had been plaguing her ever since she returned to the city.

The immediate one was Amon. She didn’t think much of Amon when she first heard of him. Just another rebellious individual who was trying to invoke change through shady means. But when she saw him at the Equalist meeting, saw him how he hid his face behind a mask, heard his voice which was cool and seductive, saw how he was able to take away someone’s bending ability and witnessed how the crowd reacted to it shook her to her core. This was not going to be an easy fight. This Equalist group was anything but small. They had a lot of supporters and their foot soldiers were well trained to take on any bender. They were able to take on both her and Mako that night.

Then there was the issue of what they were fighting for. She wasn’t exactly up to date on the political climate of the city but she could see some validation to the argument that non-benders did not much power compared to those who were benders. It didn’t help that a large portion of the city’s police department were metalbenders led by a chief who was a metalbender.

But the events that Asami witnessed only a few nights ago showed that this group was gearing up for a fight. They didn’t want to demand any laws or representation in the government, they wanted everyone to be equal by taking away bending altogether.

Asami sighed and flopped down on the bed. She thought about what her airbender predecessor Aang would’ve done. She tried her best not to read the opinion pieces in the newspapers but she couldn’t help it. She wanted to know what people’s opinion about her was. It wasn’t good. Comparisons to Avatar Aang were evitable. They certainly couldn’t compare her to Avatar Siku who barely knew of his own identity as the Avatar before succumbing to illness.

Asami remembered when she learned her unique abilities. Unfortunately this came with the destruction of Yasuko Sato’s garden. Not that she minded. Despite the mess Yasuko couldn’t wait for Hiroshi to get home that evening to show him.

Her parents contacted the White Lotus and it was agreed to start her training when she reached the age of fifteen, in the meantime keeping her identity as the Avatar a secret.

Asami’s hands clutched the bed sheets tighter. When thinking of her mother her thoughts always led to what happened two years later.

The night the intruders came.

She was eight when it happened. Her father had taken her to a science exhibition that was being held downtown. Her mother stayed at home as she had been suffering from a cold that week. During the course of the evening she had sent most of the staff home while a few remained to catch up on some work.

Asami and Hiroshi arrived home just after eleven. The whole way home Asami rambled on and on about the various inventions she had seen demonstrated. She in particular found a young inventor named Varrick quite interesting.

“Oh he’s interesting,” Hiroshi had said, “He’s quite the salesman. He could sell ice boxes in the Water Tribe.”

Their lively conversation continued as Hiroshi steered the Satomobile up the driveway, coming to a halt in front of the main entrance of the house. Once the two walked through the door and stepped into the foyer their conversation ceased and a feeling of unease settled over the both of them.

The house was dark with only a few small lamps illuminating the large interior of the entryway. It was quiet too. Asami was about to speak, perhaps continue their conversation but Hiroshi’s hand found her shoulder and he signaled her to remain quiet. She couldn’t remember how long they stood there. After a while she felt the whole was silly. It was going to be midnight soon and her mother was probably already asleep. She was going to raise this point but she heard her father’s breath catch.

“Wha—“

Then it hit her. A strange smell assaulted her nostrils. She sniffed and was repulsed by it. It smelt…burnt. Her young mind searched for reasons for this. Did her mother try to cook something and burned it? If she did, why didn’t she let the staff do it for her?

“Come Asami,” Hiroshi took her hand and quickly ushered her into one of the side rooms.

“Dad—“

Hiroshi shushed her as they entered his study. He let go of her hand and went over to his desk. He produced a key from his pocket and unlocked one of the desk drawers. Asami saw a lamp nearby and walked towards it to turn it on so he could see what he was doing.

“Don’t,” whispered Hiroshi.

Asami turned to him. “Daddy what’s going on?”

Hiroshi reached into the drawer and began fiddling with something. “Asami,” he said calmly, “I’m going to go upstairs and check on your mother. I’m sure its nothing but I want you to stay here.”

“But why—“

“Asami,” he said in an exasperated tone. Even in the dim light Asami could see her father was scared. “Please. No more questions now.” He turned his attention back to the desk drawer. Asami walked towards him to see what he was fiddling with and she came to a halt when she saw what it was. In one of his hands was a scabbard and in the other a long blade that he was removing from a large case that had been fitted into the bottom drawer of the desk.

With shaky hands he attached the blade to the scabbard and clicked it into place. He turned to his daughter and again took her hand. He guided to a nearby window, which he unlocked and opened.

“Listen to me Asami,” he said firmly, “If you hear anything or if I don’t come back into this room I want you to jump out this window and run.” She opened her mouth and Hiroshi grabbed her shoulders, moving his face closer to her. “You run. Understand? Don’t look back. You know these grounds like the back of your hand. Use that to your advantage.” Asami again tried to speak but Hiroshi gave her forehead a kiss. “No questions Asami. Just do as I ask.”

With that he stood and made his way quietly out of the room, the short sword clutched in his hands. From where she stood she could see him walk slowly across the foyer towards the stairs. He took each step one at a time. Soon he disappeared from view.

Asami held her breath as she waited with anticipation. She started counting in her head in order to measure how long he had been gone. After a short period of time she managed to calm herself down a little. Any moment her father would return along with her mother. Her father’s nerves got the better of him. Her mother would tell her that its time for bed and they would head upstairs to—

There was suddenly yelling coming from upstairs. It was her father. She couldn’t make out what he was saying but he was either screaming or yelling. This was followed by a loud crash. Asami froze where she was, her hands clutched tight in front of her, her heart beating faster and faster in her chest. Suddenly there was an orange glow emanating from upstairs and she felt heat on her face before there was loud boom that sounded like thunder. The house shook. Furniture toppled over and various items around the room were suddenly displaced. Outside in the foyer bits of ceiling came crashing down onto the floor.

There was more yelling now and Asami could tell that these voices were not her father or any of the staff. She could hear footsteps now. They were running and they weren’t coming from upstairs. Asami found herself backing towards the window. The footsteps were getting louder. Asami turned to the window. They were closing in now for their steps clattered on marble, which placed them in the foyer. Asami quickly hopped up onto the window ledge and jumped.

She fell about six feet onto a bush and with some effort she managed to pry herself loose. As soon as her feet touched the ground she was running. She headed directly for the garden and the only place where she felt she would be safe. There was a spot in the garden underneath an oak tree surrounded by tall hedges, accessible only by crawling under the hedge. Asami did not take in account that she only accessed this hiding spot during the day. But her instincts, somehow enhanced by the tremendous fear that had threatened to weak her resolve and make her crumble into a crying mess, guided her to the spot. She hit the dirt and scrambled underneath the hedge. As soon as she cleared the hedge she held her breath and halted any movement.

She listened.

Nothing. Not even the usual nocturnal sounds of owls or insects.

She waited.

Still nothing.

The silence was unbearable and Asami fought every urge to venture from her secluded spot.

She didn’t know how long it had been when the silence was broken by the sound of multiple footsteps. They were getting closer and Asami clamped a hand over her mouth as they stopped on the other side of the hedge. There was a moment or two of silence before a voice spoke.

“She’s just behind this hedge. You two stay back. I’ll get her out,” the voice was female. When the voice spoke again it was louder, the tone gentle but firm. “Asami Sato? This is the Republic City Police Department. It’s alright now. You can come out.” Asami didn’t say anything. “Smart kid,” muttered the voice. “Ms. Sato please come out. We’ve got the perpetrators in custody and your father is receiving medical attention. He’s going to be alright.” Again Asami didn’t say anything or move. “Alright,” said the voice with a sigh, “I’m coming in. Just please don’t bend anything at me.”

Asami scrambled away as the small ditch under the hedge became deeper and a figure started crawling towards her. But she didn’t run or defend herself with bending for a part of her believed the voice. Her instinct was proven correct when the figure stood up and clicked on a flashlight. In the dim light Asami could make out the sleek black and gray armor the figure standing before her was wearing along with the gold badge that was attached to it.

The officer was a middle aged woman with short black hair that already had some grey creeping into it. Her facial features were piercing but they soften as soon as they made contact with the child.

Getting down on one knee the officer spoke again, “It’s alright Asami. Come on. Let’s get you out of here.”

“Where’s Daddy,” asked Asami, tears forming in her eyes.

“He’s alright,” said the officer, “He’s hurt but its nothing serious.”

Asami slowly got to her feet and started walking towards the officer whose hand was held out for her to take. “And what about Mommy?”

The officer hesitated before shaking her head. “I don’t know. I believe she was taken along with her father to the hospital. I’m going to take you there.”

At those words Asami gladly took the officer’s hand if it meant being reunited with her parents again.

Upon exiting the garden Asami could see the grounds were crawling with police officers. The once dark estate was now illuminated by car headlights and flashing colored lights. It was into one of these police vehicles that Asami was led.

She gently tugged at the officer’s hand. “What’s your name?”

“Beifong.”

The name struck a chord with Asami. “Beifong,” she said softly, “I know that name.”

 

Hiroshi Sato had survived his encounter with the intruders who had broken into the Sato Mansion. Yasuko Sato and the house staff who had remained with her that night weren’t so lucky. The story made headlines as both Hiroshi and Yasuko were public figures and the press and public couldn’t get enough of the couple and their daughter. Now they soaked up the senseless tragedy. It was through threats of legal action and a tense phone call that Hiroshi was able to deter a magazine from publishing crime scene photographs it had obtained, some of which included photos of Yusko and her staff’s bodies.

The official report from the police was that the perpetrators were never found although there were initial reports that some suspects were taken into custody. Although those reports were later dismissed by Chief Beifong, the press kept on the story but without any additional information the story, along with calls for justice, started to fade.

A year later the police department announced that those who were responsible for the break-in had been killed during a police raid of a Triad warehouse.

 

It wasn’t until she turned fifteen that Asami was announced as the next Avatar and started her training. Until that time her father forbid her revealing her bending abilities outside the house and even at home she was restricted to where and when she could practice her earthbending along with what she could do with waterbending. She didn’t protest her father’s demands. After everything they had been through she didn’t want to be the cause of any division between the two of them.

The night at the hospital where Hiroshi, still in his bed with bandages on his face and arms, told Asami about her mother’s death, the two made a promise with one another to stick together and be there for each other. When Asami left with the White Lotus to travel the world and master the elements, it was one of the most emotional days of her life as she said her goodbyes to her father. Hiroshi assured her that he would be fine, he had his company to keep occupied.

Asami had stood at the rear of the ship as it pulled out of the harbor and headed out to sea. She stayed there and watched as Republic City got smaller and smaller until it was a distant speck on the horizon.

Now more than five years she was back home and a terrible unease had settled in the moment she had arrived back. Despite assurances from Tenzin and others that they will handle Amon and the Equalists, she felt like her first test as the Avatar was fast approaching and she hadn’t even learned to enter the Avatar State let alone mastered air yet.

The thought of airbending prompted Asami to reach over to the nightstand and grab the clock to decipher what time it was. She let out a groan when she saw that it was almost three in the morning. She had a busy day tomorrow with practice with Mako and Bolin in the morning and meditation with Tenzin in the afternoon as well as another crack at the air gate which, despite a careful approach she managed to get knocked around and spat out on her first and subsequent tries. She was quickly discovering that airbending was more spiritual than technical as the other elements had been. True, airbending does have specific moves one can try and master but one needs to unlock something within themselves to even produce a puff of air. So far Asami hadn’t been able to achieve this and Tenzin wasn’t exactly helpful by being cryptic in his lectures.

“Ugh stop,” she groaned. All these thoughts were merely keeping her up. She forced herself to think of something else or nothing at all.

“My workshop is always opened to you.”

Asami felt her cheeks grow warm as her thoughts turned to Korra. The soft voice, the long brown hair, the bright blue eyes, soft brown skin—

“Stop,” groaned Asami. “This isn’t helping.” She sighed, moving her hands behind her and resting her head on top of them, staring up at the ceiling.

Korra was stirring up a lot of conflicting feelings within her. Firstly there was the obvious physical attraction to her. One that went back a year when she read an article in a copy of the Republic City Dispatch while having breakfast with her firebending instructor. The article was about the Sato racer (officially named the S1) winning the Great Trans Race held that year in Omashu. The photo that accompanied the article was of her father and Korra posing with the S1.

From her father’s letters he had mentioned this new engineer he had found working as an assistant in the Satomobile design team, promoted to a lead position and was coming up with some revolutionary designs. “While everyone is content with maintaining the status quo when it comes to design and engineering,” wrote her father, “she’s one of the few who’s constantly asking ‘What’s next?’”

Viewing the photograph was the first time she had laid eyes on the Water Tribe woman and tonight, despite her calm exterior, she was quite flustered meeting her in person. She also sensed the possibly Korra had similar feelings towards her.

“Oh come on,” she said to herself, “Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t set yourself up for disappointment. Besides she’s with Mako.”

She paused and thought back to the interactions between Korra and Mako at the gala. There was a sense of unease between the two of them, at least that’s what she thought. The fact that Mako didn’t even mention her the two weeks Asami had known him and Bolin, and Korra hadn’t been to any of the matches or practices during that time.

Until tonight Asami had had her eye on Mako. Despite his moody attitude she couldn’t deny there was a certain charm to him when he lightened up, as rare as that was. But that was before the revelation tonight. Now it seemed that possibly both of them might be available soon.

“Forget it Sato.”

Asami wrapped her blanket tight around herself and buried her face in the pillow.

“The chances of that are astronomical.”

It took a while before she finally fell asleep but not before picturing those sapphire eyes once again.