Her mind raced with the images of Tarrlok’s past as they ran towards the referee's balcony, listening to the rioters’ cries the bounced off the corridor. The brotherly bond that they shared, Yakone, the bloodbending; Korra noticed the councilman’s eyes grow distant as he recounted his childhood to them in the attic of the Air Temple. His words still rang in her mind. “Defeat him. Put an end to this sad story.”
They pushed open the door, hoping to catch Amon off guard during his speech, to reveal him for the fraud bloodbender that he really was. The stage remained empty and as they waited, leaning on the railing of the balcony, they watched a wave of rioters as they attempted to push through the barricades of Equalist guards.
"Where is he?" she heard Mako ask beside her. The air around them was congested and they watched in silence as the riot grew more and more restless. Mako held Korra back at the sight of the guards chi-blocking even their own people, making them flail helplessly as they fell on top of each other.
"Don't tell me he's late to his own party," Korra ground out as the remaining rioters pulled the weak nonbenders into safe platforms. The whole arena quieted as the sight of the Lieutenant and his lackeys appearing on stage. He took the microphone in his hands and spoke into it; however there was no sign of the masked man, the revolutionary, Amon.
"Our leader is missing, my brothers and sisters," he began. Behind him, one of the guards moved forward and knelt as he carried a pillow in his arms. The Lieutenant took from under the blankets their leader's porcelain mask. Korra almost couldn't contain the gasp she gave when she saw it cracked down the middle, making an unsightly line down the middle of the red sphere on the forehead. Mako beside her stiffened as the Lieutenant held the mask to the people, hearing the cries of those who sobbed at the sight of it. "We may not know where he is, but we must not stop our mission. What he wants is for us to keep going-"
"I'm grabbing the mask," Korra whispered as her mind raced, Amon missing? Something wasn't right here, a man like him wouldn't leave his whole operation behind, not when he's so close to his goal, not when he's so close to getting to her, close enough that she could feel him breathing down her neck sometimes when she slept.
She jumped off the balcony, ignoring Mako's protests and pushed through the clusters of people, forcing herself up on the stage and nicking the mask from the Lieutenant's grip. She found herself seeing his surprise from in his bright eyes before they disappeared into his rage. "Return the mask and maybe I'll think about your punishment less severely."
"No, I think I'll keep it for myself, thanks," she sneered before punching flame at him. He narrowly avoided the fire before swinging one of his sticks at her. She jumped off the stage as the crowd dispersed into a running, screaming mass of hysteria. Behind her she could hear the nimble steps of the Lieutenant and the Equalists chasing after her.
She forced chunks of the probending disks at them as she avoided their nets. Mako jumped from the balcony and joined her in the fray, sending sparks of lightning at them, shocking a few of the guards and sending them into the pool far below them. She took his hand as both of them jumped across the ring and the crumbling balcony, feeling the wind as it whipped through the fabric of the Equalist uniform.
She tightened her grip on Amon's mask as they tumbled onto the team balcony. She forced herself forward and pocketed the mask, pushing Mako along as they ran through the nets and smoke bombs that were thrown at them.
"Korra, what the hell-"
"Come on, let's get out of here. We need to get Tarrlok, tell him his brother's a no-show."
She coughed and leaned against the sewer wall as she watched Mako guide the fallen councilman wearily by the arm. Tarrlok had been reluctant as they moved him out of the jail cell, but Korra assured him, or at least tried to, that they won't get caught. That was half true, as some of the Equalists left on the island were given messages that Amon was missing. Now, they found themselves walking through the sewers, returning to Gommu's coop.
Mako led the way while she fell back into step with the weary Tarrlok. Silently, she could only hope that the others were at least, safe and unharmed from their mission. The noon had already diminished into a faint glow, indicating that the day had almost come to an end. What of the biplanes that headed towards Commander Bumi’s fleet? What of Bolin, of Asami and of Iroh? She wrung her hands as they walked through the sewer.
"So my brother is missing," she heard Tarrlok muse to himself. "Strange."
"You think so too, huh?" She pulled out the cracked mask and handed it to him as they walked. He carefully turned it over in his calloused hands, delicately examining the crack as he brought it up to eye level. She continued to talk to him. "He's proved to me that he's not the sort of man to back down from a mission, not after everything he's showed us, everything that he's capable of doing."
As they ended up back in Gommu's compound, she got to work on fixing up the councilman. Mako bade her good-bye, briefly mentioning that he was going to look for the hobo who helped them out, to get a beam of Commander Bumi and to update them on the state of the city and the others.
She set a basin of water down next to his cot, and he could only stare blankly up at the roof of the underground while she got to work. He set the mask next to the basin of water while Korra took his arm and set water on it. He gave a sigh as he felt all the knots and kinks working away from his arm.
"Where do you think he'd go, Tarrlok?" she found herself asking him as she tossed the used water into the grass. She took another handful and set it on his shoulder. He really was left for dead in that cell on the island; his skin was pallid and his hands shaky as they lay across her lap. He pushed away the matted hair from his face as laid an arm on his forehead as he thought, his tired eyes flitting onto hers before closing.
“I’d not seen my brother for twenty-six years, Korra.” Her name was thin in his mouth and she flinched at the sound of it, at the memories that came with it when she first met him. Councilman Tarrlok was almost gone. “He would have been a total stranger to me had he not taken up this farce.”
She found herself healing him in the silence, working out the kinks in his shoulders and back, feeling the minimal amount of chi flowing through him as she did. There really was nothing left; it hadn’t been like the time Bolin was injured from that one match they had. Bolin’s chi bubbled up and down as she healed him, but Tarrlok’s – his chi was a blank page, no trace of his headstrong personality, or the powerful bending he used to fight her, even the edge of bloodbending had disappeared.
She looked up from her work at the familiar sound of paws padding through the concrete, behind her Naga had appeared, Mako walking beside her with General Iroh steering the polar bear-dog, behind him Asami laid her head on the man’s back in exhaustion and Bolin cradling Pabu behind her. While Iroh looked content, the mission seemed to be a success, Asami looked even more under than she had been before the mission, and Bolin could only rub her back to ease her.
Korra got up to meet them, letting the former councilman rest for a while. She smiled at the sight of Bolin tackling his brother in affection before helping Asami from Naga. Iroh hopped off, a spring in his step.
“We’ve intercepted the planes that headed for the Commander’s fleet, Avatar Korra,” Iroh began as he firmly shook her hand; it seemed that he was still giddy from the operation. Bolin laughed and slapped the general on the shoulder.
“You mean you intercepted the planes, sir.”
“Yes, well-” Iroh coughed, red tinting his cheeks, perhaps from the complement or the thought of the mission. Korra snorted at his display of modesty. “We’ve received word from Bumi that once they arrive we can take refuge in his fleet and plan the defeat of Amon and his revolution.”
Korra shifted uneasily and turned back to Tarrlok’s already asleep figure, she walked over and grabbed the mask that lay next to the empty water basin. Curiously, Bolin and the General looked over her shoulder, surprise colouring their faces at the sight of the sleeping councilman. She held the mask up and handed it to them. The gloom was gone from Asami’s face and instead surprise took its place. “Amon’s mask? Wait- How did you get that?”
The porcelain mask was being passed around, and Korra refrained from yelling out when Bolin tossed it around carelessly. She sighed in relief when it found itself back in her hands. She turned to the general. “When we get to Bumi’s fleet, I think we’re only going to plan for the revolution’s defeat. Even the Equalists don’t know where he’s gone, disappeared according to the Lieutenant.”
“How do you know it’s not a trick that they came up with?” Asami asked as she plucked the mask out of Korra’s grasp. She carefully weighed it in her hands before returning it to her.
“I don’t think Amon’s the type of person to be late to his own party and besides-” Mako began as they gathered around the fire that they left behind the night previous, his eyes flitted briefly at Korra, smiling at the analogy he borrowed from her. “When we infiltrated their gathering, the crowd was going mad, no one had control over anything. If anyone had control over the non-benders it would be Amon, and there was absolutely no sign of him there.”
They shifted uneasily in their sleeping bags as the underground darkened, the sun having disappeared from the sky, Korra’s eyes flickered to Tarrlok’s figure before settling down next to him, Naga following suit and serving as her giant pillow. She found the others staring at the sleeping man, their eyes ablaze with questions.
Bolin vocalized his first. “Where’d you find him?”
“Air Temple Island,” Korra answered quietly. Before they could ask any more questions, she continued talking. “He’s a special case – He’s Amon’s brother. That’s why I took him back here with Mako and me. I couldn’t just leave him, I- it wouldn’t feel right.”
“I understand,” Iroh affirmed. They quieted when Tarrlok turned over in his fit of sleep. “And like him, we’ve had a big day. We’ve got to rest because tomorrow we’re meeting the Commander at the docks at daybreak.”
Everyone turned over in their sleeping bags as they bid each other good night. Korra having been the last to fall asleep could only listen to her friends’ breaths as they slept; Bolin’s snores, Mako’s blanket rustling, Asami’s hums and the General’s senseless mumbling but as she sat against Naga, she found herself gazing worriedly at the sleeping councilman and his shaking figure.
Had it been from the cold he shook from, or was it something else? She crawled over to his cot, dragging her blanket with her and she carefully set it on top of him, as not to wake him. Relief set in her as the man ceased his shaking before she moved back into Naga’s warm embrace. She sighed as she fell asleep, yet she felt unease, the feeling of her gut telling her to finish Amon had grown uncertain, as though it knew nothing of where the man might have ended up. That night she dreamt of him. Not the leader of the revolution, but the detached older brother from Tarrlok’s tale.