Chapter 1: Tenzin I
Chapter 1: Tenzin I
A gust of wind rattled the silent street in front of the Republic City Police Station as the great flying bison touched down. Tenzin gracefully leapt from the saddle and his eyes swept over the scene in front of him. Sunrise was only half an hour ago, but it seemed that the majority of Republic City’s police officers were huddled outside on the steps in front of the Station. Tenzin had been in the middle of his sunrise meditation when he had been interrupted by an urgent call from the President: Republic City Police Station had been attacked.
The Police Station had been left relatively unharmed in Kuvira’s destruction of the city almost a year ago. It had been one of the first buildings to be fixed downtown. It had been decided that although Republic City would be expanding, some of the more historical parts of downtown would be rebuilt. Two other smaller stations had been built in the newer neighborhoods, but the downtown Republic City Police Station was still a symbol of the city.
As he was no longer on the Council, Tenzin was unsure of why President Raiko had summoned him to the crime scene, but his stomach turned when he saw the President standing with Mako in front of the entrance to the Station. The thought was automatic: something had happened to Lin Beifong. Why else would President Raiko be here at the scene or had called for Tenzin to be here too? When Tenzin finally made his way up the steps, he was alarmed when President Raiko reached out and touched his shoulder in a comforting manner.
“I’m sorry to call you here so early, Tenzin,” he started gravely. Tenzin felt his heart stop beating for a moment. This wasn’t just an attack. Something devastating was waiting inside. His eyes shifted from the President to Mako, but the young man was staring intently at the ground.
Tenzin tried to steady his voice and push the thought of Lin in pain to the back of his mind. “What happened?”
President Raiko’s lips pulled into a thin line and he murmured softy, “It’s a mess in there, I’m afraid. But I wanted to tell you in person. This is a loss for the whole city, but for your families in particular-”
If the President kept talking, Tenzin wouldn’t have known. The blood rushed to his ears and his entire body felt as if it were frozen. A loss…that’s what he said. Loss. Tenzin wouldn’t be here if an officer had died in the line of duty. He was here because Lin was dead. Lin was the loss. President Raiko was trying to tell him that Lin was dead.
“Where is she?” Tenzin asked suddenly, his heart pounding in his chest.
Finally, Mako spoke, “We haven’t moved her body yet. Protocol is to document the scene first. And it has taken a while to figure out who is in charge.”
“Assistant Chief Saikhan was also murdered last night,” said President Raiko quickly. “There were five officers who were killed as well and four that are in critical care at the hospital as we speak.”
“This was a massacre,” whispered Tenzin, allowing the shock to settle in. Lin was dead. She was gone. She wasn’t wait for him inside or trying to solve this vicious crime. Lin was dead.
His eyes finally focused back on the President who was waiting patiently for Tenzin to take in all of this. Tenzin and President Raiko weren’t particularly friends, but respect had developed between them over the years. President Raiko silently motioned for them to enter the station. Mako was already opening the door, but Tenzin wasn’t sure if he was ready for this. He wasn’t sure he was ready to see Lin without the life in her eyes.
“Do you need a moment?” asked President Raiko with pity in his eyes. “I want you to know that I am personally involved in this. Chief Beifong was a great asset to this city and she personally saved my life numerous times. I know that you knew her for most of her life, but I want you to know that this city will not rest until we catch those who are responsible.”
Tenzin wasn’t sure how, but he managed to reply, “Thank you, Mr. President.” Summoning all of his strength, Tenzin followed the President and Mako through the double doors of the Republic City Police Station. Before he entered, he glanced up at the metal statue of Toph Beifong. The great metalbender loomed over him and he knew nothing would ever be the same. Lin was dead. There was no longer a Beifong on the police force.
The entry hall was void of people except for two metalbending officers guarding the entrance to the offices. Tenzin’s feet felt like lead as he followed the President and Mako across the hall. Nothing had been disturbed in the entry, which meant the carnage would be in the offices themselves. Normally Tenzin would have asked how any perpetrators had gotten so far into the building without being stopped, but he was trying to summon the courage to keep walking. Because Lin was dead and he had no idea how to be in a world without Lin Beifong.
Mako hesitated at the door and President Raiko quickly said, “Why don’t you wait for the Avatar, Officer Mako.”
“Yes, sir,” was his clipped response. Mako bowed his head toward Tenzin and then hurried back outside. President Raiko nodded to the two officers at the door and pushed through into the offices.
The offices were unrecognizable. Broken desks and chairs were strewn about the room and there were scorch marks on the walls and ceiling. Abandoned metal cables covered the floor. At first Tenzin was confused to see white blankets randomly around the room until he realized the sheets were covering bodies. His stomach turned. There were six sheets that covered the bodies of the officers who were on duty last night. Was one of them Lin? Including Assistant Chief Saikhan, there were seven people killed. So one was missing.
There were three officers taking pictures of the scene. None of them spoke, but they all paused when Tenzin and the President entered. It took Tenzin a moment to realize that their looks of grief and pity were directed at him, not the President. They all knew how close their Chief had been to Tenzin and his family.
President Raiko was purposely stepping through the rubble toward another officer in a metalbending uniform standing in front of the Chief’s office. Lin’s office. Tenzin suddenly realized where the missing white sheet was. Lin was in her office. And she was dead.
“This is Captain Roan. He is leading the investigation about this tragedy. I’ve instructed him to keep you updated on all information regarding the case.”
Captain Roan was a tall man with long hair that he wore pulled back away from his face. There was nothing distinguishing about his face, but his eyes were determined. Tenzin felt suddenly comforted when Captain Roan spoke in a low, husky voice, “Master Tenzin. I am honored to meet you, but I wish it were under different circumstances. One of my friends became an airbender after Harmonic Convergence and he speaks very highly of you.”
Tenzin wasn’t sure what to say and glanced nervously towards Lin’s office. She was in there, alone, and they were out here sharing pleasantries. The President seemed to sense his uneasiness and said to the Captain, “Tenzin would like to see the Chief.”
At first Captain Roan hesitated, saying, “Sir, we could escort you to the morgue and you could wait for us to finish processing the scene.”
Heat rose into Tenzin’s cheeks and he snapped, “I am not asking permission!”
“It’s not that, sir,” replied Captain Roan softly. “I just don’t think you want to see her this way…”
The anger that had been quick to rise in his chest vanished and Tenzin looked guiltily at the door. If they didn’t want him to see her, that meant she had suffered. That her body was not presentable to him. Bile rose in his throat as he looked around the room. How had this happened? These were police officers, not some random citizens. Who could have murdered seven people in the Police Station? How had they over powered Lin Beifong?
Tenzin’s mind was resolved. “I need to see her.”
Captain Roan nodded stiffly and then knocked twice on the office door. The door was opened by a female officer with a pale face and tired eyes. Tenzin felt a rush of relief that someone was watching over Lin, even in death. But he didn’t know why he had thought no one would; her officers respected their leader more than anyone. Lin was good to her people and her people were good to her. Lin wasn’t always friendly, but she was loyal.
“Master Tenzin would like a moment with the Chief.”
The woman nodded and stepped out of the room, murmuring, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Not able to find the words to respond, Tenzin merely nodded at her and entered the room. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. Blood all over the walls or just a lifeless body in the middle of the floor? There was none of that. A table had been over turned and there was paperwork scattered around the room, but otherwise the Chief’s office was undisturbed in comparison to the offices outside. But when Tenzin finally looked at the desk at the end of the room, he could no longer control his grief.
Tears fell freely down his face as he stood in the middle of the room, alone. Lin Beifong was tethered to her chair, dried blood on her face, and a dagger sticking out of her chest. Her eyes were closed and he felt an odd sense of relief of not having to stare into her lifeless eyes. Step by step he forced himself closer, choking on the emotions raging through his body.
Lin’s long, thin fingers were paler than usual and her red, raw wrists were bound to the chair. She had obviously tried to free herself from the restraints. Her legs were obscured by her desk, but Tenzin guessed that her legs were similarly tied. Someone had hit her several times in the face, but enough time had passed since her death that the bruises had settled into the white skin. The dried blood appeared to be from a cut on her forehead and her gray hair was matted near the wound.
A gasp left Tenzin when he realized that the metal of her uniform had been forcibly pulled apart over her heart where the fatal dagger was embedded. A metalbender had done this. Only a metalbender would have been able to penetrate her uniform. Furry was overcoming the feeling of grief as he processed the information: a metalbender had murdered the daughter of the first metalbender. He was gasping for air between sobs as he stood, hunchbacked, in front of her desk. Lin was dead.
The room was silent except for his sobs. Tenzin could have stood there forever, not wanting to accept the truth. He didn’t want to deal with the consequences. At the moment he couldn’t even imagine going after the people responsible. All of his energy had been wrenched from his body. For this last moment, it was just he and Lin. His thoughts flew rapidly through his brain: he should have protected her.
Madly, he laughed. Protect Lin Beifong? No one protected a Beifong, but a Beifong. That woman was tough as platinum. She was strong. If Lin couldn’t save herself, then no one could. But somewhere in his gut, Tenzin kept feeling he could have saved her; should have saved her. Those officers laying just as lifeless in the other room was testimony that there was no way Tenzin could have stopped the monsters who did this. If by some chance he had been here, there was a possibility he would have been dead too.
“Oh, Lin. I’m so sorry,” he cried. Tenzin knew he shouldn’t touch anything, because the officers weren’t done with their investigation. But he couldn’t resist the urge to walk around the desk and brush a stray strand of grey hair out of her face. Tenzin had no idea what to do now. The thought of never leaving this room was ridiculous, but it crossed his mind nevertheless. If he left this room, Lin was gone and he would have to face the world without her. The world was going to have to keep going on without Lin Beifong. And Tenzin had serious doubts they would make it.
Chapter 2: Mako I
Hands clasped tightly behind his back, Mako took several deep breaths as he stood in front of the station. Tenzin’s arrival was making the situation very real. Police officers were dead and they had been murdered in their own home. But the part he was still have difficulty wrapping his mind around was the fact the Chief Beifong was dead. He wasn’t the only officer having a hard time at the loss of his boss; every person who had worked for her was gathered in the area.
The call had come in a couple of hours before sunrise. Two relief officers had arrived early for their shift. They had walked right into the left overs of the massacre that must have taken place sometime around midnight. At first, there had been panic. Who do you call when the police have been attacked? Before anyone realized they were already dead, the first few officers on the scene had attempted to contact both Chief Beifong and Assistant Chief Saikhan. Next on the list was every Captain and Commander in the chain of command. And the President of Republic City.
It had taken an hour to identify all seven officers: Beifong, Saikhan, Han, Lee, Ming, Suma, and Yuke. No one had wanted to go in. The offices had been a mess and they had a hard time determining who could still be saved. Mako had been called in when the President had ordered all members of the police force to appear. By that time, they knew that Chief Beifong was among those killed. From that moment, the entire city had been put into lockdown and all the officers had been sworn to silence. Until they knew what had happened, there was no need to cause a panic.
It had been President Raiko’s decision to call Tenzin and Korra. They had tried to contact Zaofu, but had only been able to leave word for Suyin Beifong to contact the President. The next logical call was to Tenzin. It was well known that the airbending master would be up with the sun, so it wouldn’t be too early. Tenzin had taken the news quietly, but Mako guessed that the man was in shock. Mako was glad that President Raiko had directed him to wait outside for Korra. He wasn’t sure he wanted to see Tenzin break down over the Chief.
A Satomobile sped up to the barricade that had been put up this morning. A few reporters had arrived after the lockdown had been put into place. Obviously, something had happened, but they hadn’t been getting any answers. But the arrival of the Avatar after that of the President and Master Tenzin had put them back into a frenzy.
The officers had been instructed to let the Avatar through when she arrived. The presence of the Satomobile and not Naga meant that Asami was with her. For once, Mako was relieved that Asami had accompanied Korra. Ever since their return from the Spirit World, Mako found himself in several awkward encounters with the new couple. No one seemed to be able to believe that he was genuinely happy for them. Sure, it was a bit weird; not that they were a couple, but that he had dated them both and then they had become a couple.
Mako steadied himself as Asami threw the Satomobile into park in front of him. Both women leapt out of the car quickly. “Mako, what happened?”
“The Police Station was attacked sometime around midnight last night,” Mako said robotically, using his police persona to get through this particular notification. He took pause though, trying to collect any sense of calm still within his body.
Korra’s eyes had surveyed the area, taking note of the numerous police officers that seemed to be in various states of distress. Snapping her attention back to Mako, she pressed again, “Did someone die?”
“We lost…” Mako’s throat was closing quickly. Asami quickly grabbed his arm in concern and Mako tried to pull strength from her. “Seven officers were killed last night.”
“Seven?” gasped Asami. Korra’s hands balled into fists and she drew her shoulders up to an impressive stance.
“That’s not…it’s…I have no idea how to say this,” mumbled Mako. He’d notified families of victims before. But somehow this was different. Maybe it was because he hadn’t had a chance to process the Chief’s death himself. But he could tell Korra was about to storm into the Police Station and she needed to know before she got in there.
“Mako, I’m so sorry,” murmured Asami as she tried to hug him, but Mako shook her off. He had to tell them before he lost his voice.
“Chief Beifong was killed last night,” Mako finally blurted out. Both women stared at him in disbelief and he couldn’t blame them. His heart was hammering from saying the words out loud. Even the President hadn’t been able to say those exact words to Tenzin. Tenzin had just known suddenly that his old friend was among the dead.
Korra seemed to deflate suddenly and whispered, “Are you sure?” All Mako could do is was nod. Not for the first time this morning, he felt like being sick. He could see the tears welling up in Korra’s blue eyes and Asami wasn’t even bothering to hide the wetness on her own cheeks.
“How? What happened?” Asami’s voice trembled. Korra reached out to take Asami’s hand. Mako wished he had someone to steady him. Or at least, maybe if Bolin was here, he wouldn’t feel so alone. But he wasn’t looking forward to telling Bolin that one of his heroes was dead.
“We don’t know. Four officers are at the hospital now, but we haven’t been able to speak to them yet. They’re still in critical condition.” There was a very small chance that two of the younger officers were going to make it. The healers had made that very clear. But Lu and Quon had a fighting chance. Lu’s partner Gang was at the hospital with a two other detectives to collect their statements when they woke.
To Mako, Gang and the other detectives had just as hard of job as those inside documenting the scene. Mako knew that if he had been there last night, he wouldn’t want to have woken up in a hospital to learn that his friends and boss were all dead, but he had somehow survived. He didn’t envy telling Lu and Quon that they were the lone survivors.
“Who’s in charge?” barked Korra suddenly. Mako knew that the Avatar dealt best with horrible news by facing it head on. The initial shock had begun to wear off and Korra wanted to do something. He understood. That’s why every officer in Republic City had gathered here. They needed justice.
“Captain Roan. Saikhan was killed as well,” replied Mako. As Korra started to stalk towards the Station doors, he stepped into her path. “Please, Korra, they’re still in there. Let the police do their jobs.”
“I just want to help catch the bastards that did this!”
Asami squeezed Korra’s hand and tried to gently pull her back. “Mako is right, Korra. This is personal for everyone. The President wouldn’t have called you if he didn’t want your help. But maybe we should let them finish here first.”
“Tenzin is inside right now with President Raiko. We can wait for them…” Mako turned back towards the station and stared up at Toph Beifong’s metal statue. A fleeting thought came to him: would they build a statue for Lin Beifong as well? She would hate that. He was pretty sure she hated the statue of Toph. But he also had a suspicion that she hadn’t had it removed because Toph hated it equally as much.
There was movement by the doors and a few officers went inside. Asami nudged Mako and asked, “What’s going on?”
“They have to move their…bodies…to the morgue at the hospital,” answered Mako firmly. That was one of the reason these officers weren’t on the streets enforcing the city wide lock down. Five police officers and two chiefs would be guarded even in death. Everywhere they went until they were finally laid to rest, they would have an escort. This had been done for every police officer had died, either in the line of duty or of natural causes. Republic City had never buried a Chief of Police though, so there wasn’t really a protocol. The original Chief Beifong had retired and Chief Shiro had retired to hand the command to Lin. Shiro had moved to the Fire Nation years ago where he lived with his wife.
The Station doors opened and all the officers in the area snapped to attention. They gathered to form a line between the doors and the waiting ambulances. Four officers carrying a long shiny metal box walked solemnly through the doors. A hush fell over the group as five more boxes came after the first. Mako raised his arm to hold a salute as the makeshift coffins passed by him. Metalbenders carried the next box and Mako knew that Assistant Chief Saikhan’s body was laying in it. All six boxes were loaded carefully into the back of the ambulances. Then the officers that had carried them fell into line with the rest of them.
Beside him, Asami wrapped her arms around Korra and buried her face into her shoulder. Korra was crying now and Mako didn’t blame her. They knew who the next box would be carrying. Mako straightened his back into attention as Captain Roan and Detective Shu appeared, holding the first rungs of the final metal box. Someone had taken the time to carve the Republic City Police emblem into the top of the metal. Tenzin and President Raiko were carrying the back of the esteemed Police Chief’s coffin.
Like every other officer on the line, Mako stood with his hand in salute. He wasn’t even sure if anyone was breathing. There was no noise from Satomobiles or carts or the normal bustle of people. Republic City was silent. The few reporters that had showed up did not raise their cameras or ask any questions. This silence lasted until Chief Beifong’s body was loaded into the back of the last ambulance.
Mako slowly lowered his salute, but otherwise had no idea what to do. President Raiko was speaking with Captain Roan. His attention was captured by the red and gold robes of Tenzin as he approached them. His eyes were red and for once, Mako thought Tenzin looked old. Beside him, Asami let go of Korra long enough for Korra to throw herself into Tenzin’s waiting arms. Asami reached out to grab Mako’s hand and pulled him toward Korra and Tenzin. Before he knew it, Mako was enveloped into a large embrace with the rest of them. Normally, he would have pulled away, but not today.
After a minute, Tenzin took a shuddering breath and murmured, “We need to get to Air Temple Island. I told the President I would get in contact with Su. Mako you are welcome to come with us.”
“No sir, I think I need to stay here,” Mako replied and Tenzin nodded in understanding. “I need to tell Bolin and I’m sure he’ll meet you at Air Temple Island.”
“We will find who did this. I promise.” The older airbender patted his back with affection. Mako tried to nod confidently, but he failed. Tenzin guided Korra and Asami back to Oogi. Mako watched them take off before turning and walking back into the Police Station. He had to find Bolin.
It would be a short ride to the new part of town where Asami had helped Bolin set up a new Pro-Bending Gym. Bolin was training earth benders to be pro-benders and, with the help of several other pro-benders, changing the game to welcome in new airbenders. Asami had dictated her own section of the gym to sparring classes for non-benders. Future Industries was backing the gym, but Bolin was the front man.
However, when Mako reached his patrol car, he couldn’t bring himself to open the door. He gripped the keys so hard that they were cutting into the palm of his hand. How was he going to tell Bolin that the Chief was dead? It had been hard enough to tell Korra and Asami. He kicked the door of the satomobile and cursed at the pain that shot through his leg. He forcefully pulled the door open and sunk down into the seat, his head in his hands. It took several deep breaths before he was calm enough to start the ignition and drive away from the station.
Republic City seemed quiet this morning. Of course, most of the city was just beginning their day and they were going to wake up to the news that the Republic City Police Department had been attacked. After all that had happened over the years, Republic City had been enjoying a sense of peace over the past few months. Since there was very little traffic, Mako reached the Pro-Bending Gym without any problems.
He used his key to get in the side door to the gym and glumly climbed the stairs to Bolin’s loft. With a heavy hand, he knocked three times on the wooden door that had the Fireferrets’ emblem carved onto it. Inside he heard Pabu’s chirping and then a loud thump that must have been Bolin falling out of bed. A few seconds later, he heard, “Who is it?”
“Mako,” he called back and the door swung open to reveal a yawning Bolin in his boxers.
“Come in, bro.” Bolin wandered aimlessly back into the loft and slumped back into bed facedown. Pabu jumped into Mako’s arms as a greeting before rushing to curl up on top of Bolin’s back.
Mako sat down in a chair and gave a deep sigh. He wasn’t sure how to start the conversation, especially since Bolin was starting to snore again. Glancing around the room, he spotted a picture on the kitchen table. He pushed himself up from the chair and grabbed the frame. It had been taken six months ago when Asami and Bolin had opened the new gym.
Asami and Bolin stood in the middle with a large pair of clippers to cut the ceremonial ribbon. Korra stood beside Asami and Mako and Opal stood next to Bolin. Also in the picture were Tenzin and Jinora, representing the air nation, and seven other pro-benders. Next to Tenzin, with her hands clasped behind her back, was Chief Beifong. She had attended the opening because her officers would be handling the crowd control, but Mako wasn’t sure who had convinced her to stand in the picture.
His eyes began to mist and Mako placed the picture back down on the kitchen table. To keep himself from crying, he pulled open the little door to the ice box and saw that Bolin only had eggs and milk. Smiling at his brother’s lack of responsibility, he grabbed a few eggs and the carton of milk. In no time, he had whipped out some scrambled eggs.
By the time he had plated the eggs, Bolin had crawled back out of bed and to a chair at the table. Mako silently served his brother and took a seat across from him. Pabu and Bolin noisily shoved the eggs into their mouths. Bolin looked up, his eyes open now, and mumbled, “You want some?”
Mako’s stomach turned over and he shook his head. Bolin’s world was about to be shattered and there was no way he was going to be able to keep food down. “Listen, Bolin…something happened last night…”
Bolin’s eyes flickered away from his plate, now empty. “You ok?”
Mako wished that his brother didn’t have the intuition to know when something was wrong with him. He watched as Bolin’s face changed from hungry and sleepy to concerned and confused. Taking a deep breath, he launched into the news, “Someone attacked the Station last night. It was bad, Bolin…”
Mako leaned back in his chair and closed his eyes. He was beginning to cry again and this time, he wasn’t sure if he was going to be able to stop it. “Bolin, the Chief is dead. They’re all dead…seven people and it may be nine by tomorrow.” He let out a gasp as the pain gathered in his stomach.
Bolin’s arms were suddenly around his shaking shoulders. He could hear his brother’s own crying and he grabbed Bolin to try to steady them both. The brothers clutched each other in a sobbing embrace. Mako had worked so hard when they were growing up to make sure they never felt the loss of their parents again. They only depended on each other. But after Korra joined the Fire Ferrets, everything had changed.
They had a family again and somehow, the stoic Chief Beifong had become a part of that family. She had given Mako a chance to turn his life around and become a police officer. He honestly didn’t know what he would have done without her. And now she was gone. For Bolin, the Chief had been a hero. For Mako, she had been the mentor he never knew he needed.
Chapter 3: Opal I
Opal sipped on her tea as she listened to Jinora talk. They had finished their morning meditation and now were engrossed in their normal gossip over tea. It wasn’t really gossip. Not like back on Zaofu. Nothing of much scandal actually happened at any of the air temples and Jinora didn’t like to spread rumors. Ikki was more informative in the local gossip. Nevertheless, the two girls had made a habit of sitting outside and drinking tea after morning meditation.
Jinora was midsentence when she paused, staring off into the distance. “That’s weird. I didn’t think Dad had to go into the city today. Especially not this early.”
Turning, Opal saw that Oogi was flying back from Republic City. Tenzin wasn’t alone though, but she couldn’t tell who was in the saddle. Jinora reached for her glider and nodded for Opal to do the same. Effortlessly, the two young women flew down to the paddock where the sky bison were housed. They glided in about the time Tenzin landed Oogi. Opal smiled when she saw who had accompanied him: Korra and Asami. It had been a couple of days since she had last seen her friends.
“Dad- what’s wrong?” Opal glanced from where Korra was helping Asami out of the saddle to Tenzin when she heard Jinora’s question. To her shock, her mentor looked pale and sick. Jinora approached him carefully, but was immediately swept into her father’s arms in a hug. Jinora peaked at Opal with a confused look as her father continued to hold her.
Korra and Asami had stopped a few feet away from the embracing father and daughter. Now that they were closer, Opal noticed they had been crying. Something terrible had happened this morning. Her normal cheerful smile faded quickly as she rushed to her friends.
“Is Tenzin ok?” she asked, but Korra only looked at her feet and Asami seemed to be at the brink of tears again. Behind her she heard footsteps and felt a heavy hand on her shoulder.
“Opal, I’m afraid I have some bad news,” rumbled Tenzin’s deep voice. Jinora looked like she wanted to ask another question, but Tenzin was completely focused on Opal. Opal felt the blood rush to her face at Tenzin’s intense stare.
Flashes of her parents and brothers sped through her mind. Had something happened in Zaofu? But why would Tenzin have been in Republic City? Or brought Korra and Asami? If anything had happened to her family, they would have just called Opal directly on Air Temple of Island. The only people she knew in Republic City were Bolin, Mako, and her Aunt. Her stomach clenched and she looked quickly at Korra and Asami again. Was it Bolin? Had something happened to Bolin? Is that what they didn’t want to tell her?
“There was an attack on the Police Station last night. I’m so sorry, Opal. But your aunt…” Tenzin nearly choked over the words, “Lin didn’t make it.”
“What?!” exclaimed Opal. Aunt Lin? Of all the awful scenarios she could have come up with, Aunt Lin being dead wasn’t one of them. Jinora leapt towards her, wrapping her thin body around Opal’s, but Opal didn’t react. “What do you mean? Aunt Lin is tough…she was just fine a couple of days ago. I just talked to her!”
“I’m so sorry, Opal,” spoke Korra as she and Asami tried to join Jinora’s embrace, but Opal wriggled free of them all and focused on Tenzin.
“No, something is wrong...You can’t be serious!”
Tenzin sighed deeply as if he was trying to keep from breaking down himself. Opal didn’t want to believe him. She’d only really known her aunt for four years now. That wasn’t nearly long enough. Tenzin was speaking again, “I was just there to see her, Opal. I came back to call your mother. But I wanted you to hear this from me.”
“She’s…gone? Like really gone?” Opal reached around blindly for Jinora who grabbed her again. They both had matching tear streaks on their cheeks. She wasn’t sure what to do. But it seemed she wasn’t the only one at a loss. Tenzin looked as if the world had been turned upside down. In fact, they were all so wrapped up in their own grief that none of them heard Bumi walk up behind Korra and Asami.
“You all look awful. Who died?” His words finally pulled a sob from Opal as the impact of what Tenzin had told her finally sunk in. Her aunt was dead. Bumi stumbled around Korra and Asami to Opal’s side to stand in front of his brother. “I didn’t mean to upset her…what’s going on?”
Opal rescued Tenzin’s blank stare by whispering the words out loud. “Aunt Lin died.”
“She was murdered!” spat Korra in anger, but Opal couldn’t find that sort of rage inside of her. It was all too confusing. Why did it matter how she died? That wouldn’t change the fact that Opal would never see her Aunt again.
Bumi pressed a chaste kiss to Opal’s temple and whispered, “I’m so sorry, my girl. I’m so sorry for all of us.” He kissed the tip of his niece’s blue arrow and then turned to his brother. His voice was one Opal had never heard come from the rambunctious man before. He sounded soothing and calm. “Hey, Tenzin. Why don’t we go inside…”
“We have to call Su,” answered Tenzin, but Bumi placed a hand on Tenzin’s chest.
“Why don’t you let me do that? You should sit down. Take a minute.”
“I don’t have a minute,” Tenzin replied gruffly.
Opal found her voice and said, “I want to be there when you call Mom.”
Opal knew this would break her mother’s heart. Growing up, Suyin loved to entertain her sons with stories of her wilder days. But for Opal, she saved the treasured stories of Toph and Lin. Opal knew that her mother had many regrets about Lin and how things had gone. But Su was good about putting the past behind her; something that Lin had never been able to do. But losing her sister would come as a shock and a devastation to Su.
“I’ll come with you,” offered Bumi, obviously concerned not just for his brother, but Opal as well. Opal wondered briefly how close Bumi had been to her aunt. There was a large age difference between them and Opal had been under the impression that Bumi had spent most of his adult life away from Republic City.
“No, I need you to find Kya,” stated Tenzin firmly. “She can’t hear about this from anyone else.”
Kya. Opal’s eyes widened. For a few brief minutes, Opal had forgotten she wasn’t the only person on Air Temple Island that had a close relationship with her aunt. She guessed it was because no one seemed to mention Kya’s sudden closeness with Lin starting a few years ago. Su had made a few jokes about Lin moving on with the fairer sibling of her ex, but other than that, not much had been said about the two women being romantically involved. But losing Lin would devastate Kya. Of that Opal was sure.
“I’ll find her. And after you call Su, we’ll tell her together. Ok, little brother?” Tenzin managed to nod and Bumi turned to Korra and Asami and said, “Go find Pema. Tell her what has happened. And if you see Kya, just tell her I’m looking for her.”
Korra and Asami walked off, hand in hand, toward the main house where Tenzin’s family would be having breakfast. Bumi started toward the women’s dormitory, where Opal knew Kya would still be getting ready for the day. Slender fingers squeezed Opal’s hand and she realized that Jinora was still beside her. Quietly, Jinora grabbed her father’s hand as well and the three of them walked to the radio tower.
It didn’t take long for Tenzin to be dispatched through to Zaofu. They were transferred a few times as it seemed her parents were on an airship. But when someone finally answered, it wasn’t Su that was speaking, but Baatar. “Good morning, Tenzin.”
“I’m afraid it has been anything but a good morning,” replied the Airbender in a chipped voice. There was an unusual silence on the other end and Opal wondered for a moment if they had been disconnected. But her father’s voice finally came through.
“We were expecting this call. I’m afraid Su is avoiding it. Toph contacted her this morning to tell her that Lin was in trouble. We’re on an airship on our way to Republic City right now.” Opal shouldn’t have been surprised that her grandmother already knew that something had happened to her daughter. But when Baatar spoke again, Opal felt her heart drop. “Can you tell me what to expect? How bad is it?”
They didn’t know Lin was dead. Her parents just thought her aunt was injured. Beside her, Tenzin’s breathing had become rapid and he seemed to be unable to speak. On the other end of the line, Baatar called out Tenzin’s name, trying to get a response. Taking a deep breath, Opal leaned over and removed the microphone from Tenzin’s hands. In a soft voice, she said, “Dad?”
“Opal, honey? Is that you? Your mom and I are on our way…”
“Dad, she’s gone…” Opal held back a sob and Jinora stopped trying to comfort her own father to rub small circles on Opal’s back.
Silence met her again on the other end of the line for a moment. Then the line crackled and her father spoke again, “We’ll be there soon, honey. Call me if you need me, but right now, I need to tell your mother.”
“I love you, Daddy,” sniffed Opal. She wanted to be there with him, to hold her mother’s hand while they told her the news. This wasn’t fair; they had just fixed their family. Even her grandmother had been reunited with her daughters. But it would never be that way again.
Beside her, Tenzin had gotten up and left the room, in search of Bumi and Kya. Jinora continued her ministrations on Opal’s back. Jinora’s sweet voice was soft when she spoke. “Thank you for helping Dad. We’re going to get through this.”
“I just wish I could be there when Mom finds out. She’s been so happy since Aunt Lin and she made up. I just can’t…” Opal hiccupped on emotions and stopped talking. She knew the guilt that her mother felt about her broken family. She also knew how much Suyin blamed herself for the distance between the sisters. But Aunt Lin had forgiven her…they were a family again.
“You want me to call Bolin?” asked Jinora, but Opal shook her head. Oh, Bolin. Her Aunt Lin was his idol and he was always so much more emotional than the rest of them.
“I don’t know if I can tell him…he worshiped Aunt Lin.”
The two girls hugged and then Opal let Jinora lead her out of the radio tower. Something in her mind couldn’t stop replaying her father’s words: Toph contacted her this morning to tell her that Lin was in trouble. In trouble- that was the phrase he had used. Opal’s grandmother hadn’t given any indication that Aunt Lin was dead. But Grandma Toph should have known that Aunt Lin had been killed…so why didn’t she tell them?
The thought slipped away from her grandmother as they approachedthe main house and saw Tenzin with Bumi and Kya. Opal wasn’t sure if they should intrude on this notification, but Jinora clearly wanted to be there to comfort her own aunt, so they stood back a ways while Tenzin tried to tell Kya what had happened.
“Would you two just spit it out? Bumi is acting like he’s an actual adult and you look like death warmed over, Tenzin,” Kya was saying as the girls got closer. Bumi tried to take her hand, but Kya was clearly not interested. “Did something happen to Mom?”
“No, Mom’s fine,” Tenzin tried to assure her, but was failing.
Bumi, suddenly taking charge as the older sibling, turned Kya to face him instead of Tenzin, his hands firmly on her shoulders. “Kya, Lin was killed last night in an attack on the Police Station.”
Kya stopped resisting him instantly and tried to look over his shoulder at Tenzin for him to tell her it was one of Bumi’s jokes. Albeit, not a funny one. But all Tenzin could say was, “I’m sorry, Kya.”
“No!” cried the waterbender and she tried to wrench herself free from Bumi’s grasp, but her older brother held on tight. “No! No, no, you’re wrong!”
Bumi used his superior strength to pull Kya toward him into a forced embrace, but she was fighting him all of the way, yelling at him inconsolably. Tenzin approached his siblings as Kya dropped to her knees, the strength to stand suddenly having left her. Both Bumi and Tenzin ignored as she tried to shove them away, crying, “Get off of me! She’s not dead!”
It was an uncontrollable grief that Opal hoped she would never feel. Beside her, Jinora had finally begun to cry at the sight of her aunt breaking down. Bumi had gathered his weeping sister into his arms and was rocking her back and forth. Tenzin was kneeling beside them, his arms swept over them both. Kya was murmuring Lin’s name over and over again.
Jinora nudged her shoulder and Opal turned to look behind her. She felt the tears start to swell up again as she noticed her boyfriend rushing towards her. Red eyed and trembling, Bolin threw his arms around her and sobbed, “Mako just told me. I came as quickly as I could.”
Opal barely noticed when Bolin lifted her up to cradle in his arms and walk towards the main house. She laid her head against his chest and tried to concentrate on his heartbeat. Bolin was here and her parents were on their way. Somehow, she would survive this loss. But right now all she wanted to do was go back to bed and pretend that none of this had ever happened.
Chapter 4: Tenzin II
Eight hours. It had been eight hours since Tenzin had stood in Lin’s office in front of her body. Tenzin had returned to Republic City with Korra, who at present was shouting at President Raiko, after receiving a call from the Fire Nation. Izumi had spoken to him directly, telling him of her plans to make the trip for Lin’s funeral. Then she revealed that she had been unable to contact her father. The former Fire Lord had been traveling in the northern province of the Fire Nation, but was still unreachable. Tenzin had heard the uneasiness in Izumi’s voice when she tried to pretend she wasn’t worried. But Tenzin would have to let Izumi worry about her father; he had enough on his plate as it was.
Tenzin felt like crawling into bed and sleeping for days, but he knew that wasn’t an option. After meditating, he knew that he would never be able to sit to the side while others searched for Lin’s killers. He knew Korra wanted to get back into town to help with the investigation and when Pema came to him with a bag of food, he knew she didn’t expect him to stay on the island. His wife had kissed him on the cheek, assured him that she would look after his sister, and told him to go get justice.
He had been hesitant to leave Kya, but he knew that Pema, Bumi, and Opal would take care of her. After her breakdown when they had broken the news to her, Tenzin had carried her to her room and let her cry herself to sleep. For all the grief he was carrying; for the emptiness he felt in a world without Lin, he knew it was nothing compared to what Kya was going through. His love for Lin had aged and changed; they had grown apart and found new loves in their life. But Kya…His minded drifted suddenly to when he had found out that his sister had fallen in love with his ex-girlfriend.
With all the new airbenders around, it was unusually hard to find a good place to meditate. Even though it warmed his heart to see his father’s nation growing, sometimes he just wanted time to himself. This is why the airbending master was sitting cross-legged on a semi flat rock that rested just above the water in a secluded corner of Air Temple Island. It was easier for him to ignore the splash of the water than the constant flutter of people wanting to be in his presence.
He felt the air stirring his red and yellow robes. His breathing had slowed and he felt a peace settling over him. He felt so connect to the spirits nowadays and it brought him comfort to think that it was because of the new airbenders. They were helping him achieve his father’s dream. There was so much to look forward-
“Are you hiding?”
He let out a long sigh and grumbled, “Apparently not very successfully.”
Kya hopped down a few rocks to join him. She was barefoot as usual. It was one of the things she liked about being in Republic City versus the South Pole. Begrudgingly, he moved over so she could sit next to him. She had been away from the South Pole for a few days now, but would be going back to help their mother care for Korra.
“Is there is a reason you are interrupting my meditation?” he quipped, not sure why Kya was here. Not just on his rock, but on Air Temple Island at all. Her report of Korra’s health wasn’t promising. She had tried to reassure him and Korra’s friends that it had only been two months since the battle with the Red Lotus.
“Yup,” she replied as she inched closer to the water in order to dangle her legs in the water. “Need to tell you something, but you can’t say anything. I’m only here because you’re my brother.”
He stiffened, ready for bad news about Korra. Maybe she hadn’t been completely honest with them. He intertwined his fingers and tried to remain calm. Glancing over her shoulder, Kya let out a giggle, causing him to ask defensively, “What?”
“You look like I’m about to tell you that someone is dying.”
“Well, you usually don’t corner me on a rock to have a conversation,” he protested and unclasped his fingers to cross his arms defiantly over his chest.
Kya smiled. “I didn’t want anyone else to overhear. I’m really not supposed to be telling you. She’d be pissed if she knew I was here.”
“What’s going on, Kya?” He watched her play with the water as she kicked out her feet. She almost looked nervous; perhaps abashed was the better word? In all of his memories, he could count on one hand times that Kya was embarrassed.
“I just thought you should hear it from me,” she started, not looking directly at him. “Lin and I are seeing each other.”
Of all the things he had expected, that was not one of them. He blinked at the back of her head, watching her grey hair sway in the wind. Kya had never made him privy to any of her previous relationships; he wasn’t sure if he had met more than two of her previous girlfriends.
“You and Lin…” he stuttered. Kya had always moved from woman to woman, but he hadn’t even known that Lin was interested in women. He had done his best to stay out of Lin’s personal life after he married Pema. “Lin and you…”
“I’m in love with her, Tenny.”
The nickname from his childhood brought him back to reality. “This is so…unexpected.”
“That’s because you wouldn’t have known even if I was having my way with her right in front of you.” This time she turned around to see his reaction, her feet pulling out of the water to tuck underneath her.
“And I think you should know that we’ve been involved for quite a number of years. Nothing serious at first,” she admitted, a giggle rising in her throat as she added, “I think she just wanted me for the sex.”
The brief image that flashed across his mind caused him to groan in annoyance. She was playing with him now. But he knew she was trying to make him comfortable with the idea. But if she was here, telling him, that meant that it was no longer about the physical. “What changed?”
“I love her.” It was the second time she had declared her love for Lin in the conversation, but the first time he had really registered it. Gone was the teasing in her eyes. It had been replaced with a woman who had seen far too much in her long life.
“I don’t really know why you’re telling me this,” he admitted.
Kya raised an eyebrow. “You don’t think it’s important to tell your brother that you’re dating his ex-girlfriend? But I’m not asking for permission…I just wanted you to know. I wanted you to hear it from me and not from the rumor mill.”
“Thank you, I guess.”
Rising to her feet, Kya brushed her hands over her blue dress. He realized that the conversation was over. She had told him what she wanted to and didn’t want to hang around to watch him come to terms with the idea of her and Lin.
“Kya,” he said, stopping her before she climbed off the rock. “Does she love you, too?”
A smile crossed Kya’s face and he was reminded of his mother when she spoke about Aang. “She does.”
They had never spoken directly about Kya’s relationship with Lin again. Bumi had a habit of making little jokes whenever both women were around. Tenzin wasn’t even sure how Bumi found out, but slowly, Kya and Lin became the worst kept secret on the Island.
Korra’s raised voice brought him back to the moment. Korra was dealing with her grief much differently than Tenzin. She always had. The shock had nearly pushed Tenzin into hibernation while Korra was ready for a fight. But right now, there was no one to fight. The President was waiting for an update from the police and had told Korra to go back home. Which of course, wasn’t the best thing to say to the grieving Avatar. And Tenzin had retreated to the back of President Raiko’s office while Korra told him every reason she could come up with as to why her going home was a bad idea.
Korra’s rant was interrupted when Captain Roan quietly entered the President’s office. The Avatar and the President spoke at the same time: “Do you know who did this?” Both glared at the other in response.
Captain Roan took a deep breath and calmly reported, “I have some new information. But there are still some pieces that aren’t fitting together. First, we have no idea how the suspects got into the station. If this was any other building in the city, I would say that they were ambushed. But the Police Station is one of the most secure buildings. Second, Lu is awake and speaking, but all he remembers is some bright lights before he was knocked unconscious. He was not able to identify anyone.”
“So you have nothing!” Korra threw her hands in the air in frustration.
Tenzin stepped up to say, “Korra, we are all trying to find answers. Please let the captain do his job.”
“Thank you, Master Tenzin. Chief Beifong’s autopsy was the first performed-”
“Wasn’t her cause of death rather obvious?” Interrupted Tenzin, ignoring his advice to Korra. The image of her torn uniform and the dagger were still fresh in his mind.
“No. In fact, it was quite confusing to us. There was very little blood around the knife wound. If her heart had been pumping when she was stabbed, there would have been a lot more blood. And it’s nearly impossible to tear or remove a metalbender’s uniform if they are conscious. We believe she was already dead when she was stabbed. But the doctor isn’t sure of an exact cause of death. The best he was able to report was swelling in the brain due to a head injury.”
Tenzin’s eyebrows furrowed at the Captain’s report. If she was already dead, that would explain how someone managed to open her uniform. It still didn’t answer how she was subdued and killed. Lin had learned from her mother to listen to the earth. It was impossible to sneak up on the woman. Well, he thought, that’s not completely true. You could sneak up on her from the air. But Lin would have heard them coming through the roof. The marks around her wrists implied that she had been alive when they tied her to the chair.
“We do have one lead. An officer fresh out of the Metalbending Police Academy has been confirmed missing. Her name is Pari. Lu recalls her being on duty last night, but doesn’t remember seeing her after the fighting started. This means that whoever did this didn’t want to leave any evidence behind.” Captain Roan pulled a picture of a young woman who wasn’t much older than Korra in her metalbending uniform. Tenzin looked away from the picture, because all he could see was a much younger Lin graduating from the MetalBending Academy.
“You think this Pari person had something to do with it? That it was an inside job?” asked Korra.
“That’s the current theory.”
President Raiko stepped out from behind his desk to ask, “Captain, do you believe this city is still in danger?”
Captain Roan let out a sigh and gave a brief incline of his head. “I won’t lie to you, Mr. President. Because no one has claimed responsibility for this attack and the suspects worked very hard not to leave evidence behind, that says to me that they aren’t done yet. But nothing was taken from the station and it almost seemed personal against the police. But every officer in this city is on duty. This was personal, Mr. President. And the police of this city will not rest until we get answers.”
“I can help!” said Korra eagerly. “Let me and my friends help with patrol. I’m sure some of the airbenders would be happy to help as well. Lin helped protect the Air Nation when they were in trouble.”
“Although we are a Nation of peace, Captain, I would be happy to let any volunteers help to keep this city safe while you investigate this horrific attack,” agreed Tenzin. He wouldn’t mind helping himself, but he knew his services would be needed elsewhere. Bumi, Pema, and his children were with Opal and Kya, and Su was on her way. And he had a feeling that Toph would be showing up any minute now. His family needed him with them.
Then there was the matter of the Fire Nation. In Izumi’s short call, she had expressed concern for her father. Izumi had tried to reach him to tell him about the attack and Lin’s death, but had been unable to reach him. Izumi had tried not to let her voice reflect that she was worried, but Tenzin had sensed her nervousness. He knew the feeling. Korra’s parents had been with Katara when he had called to give her the news about Lin, but he still wished he could be there. Zuko and Katara were not as young as they used to be.
“Thank you both,” said Captain Roan with a small bow. “All I ask is that you let the police handle the investigation. I have asked Detective Mako to keep the Avatar updated. If you would like to help, please report to the Eastern Station. We need to keep as organized as possible.”
“There is one other matter. I’m sure that Avatar Korra and Tenzin would agree that we need leadership in these troubled times. I would like to promote you to Interim Chief of Police.” Silence fell upon the room at President Raiko’s words. Tenzin had expected Korra to protest replacing Lin, but the young woman had matured over the years. Republic City Police needed a leader. Lin would have never wanted her officers to be without a Chief. Both Tenzin and Korra knew that.
Captain Roan, on the other hand, looked to be surprised. His long ponytail swayed back in forth as he shook his head. “I don’t think…”
“We are going through the records to see who would have been promoted in the event of her death, but right now, we need to show a strong united front. Chief Beifong was never very vocal in her praises, but I believe she would have approved this. Your fellow officers looked to you to lead this investigation. And I’m asking you to step up and lead this city until the matter can be resolved.”
President Raiko respectively bowed at the waist and Tenzin followed suit, his fist touching the palm of his other hand. Captain Roan returned the bows and gently replied, “Thank you. All of you. I will not let the Chief down.”
There was a knock on the door and the President’s secretary poked her head into the office. “President Raiko, there is official from the White Lotus here to see you. She says her name is Soraya.”
A frown appeared on President Raiko’s face, but he motioned for the secretary to let the White Lotus member in. A young woman about thirty with the dark blue and white robes of the White Lotus entered. Her dark hair was styled similarly to how Tenzin remembered his mother wearing hers when he was younger. Although the members of the White Lotus denounced their allegiance for any particular nation, it was often easy to identify their heritage. With her blue eyes, Soraya was obviously of one of the Water Tribes.
Soraya bowed to the president and Korra before introducing herself. “My name is Soraya and I have been sent by the White Lotus to assist Republic City’s investigation.”
“Why is the White Lotus interested in the death of Republic City Police officers?” asked President Raiko suspiciously. Tenzin felt his eyes narrowing. The White Lotus had only ever concerned themselves with the Avatar. And even then, they hadn’t been much use when Zaheer and his people tried to kill Korra.
“I believe that is above my clearance, Mr. President. But I have been sent here to help and I just wish to do my duty,” replied Soraya sincerely, but no one in the room was over impressed. Captain Roan was beginning to look particularly offended and it briefly reminded Tenzin of Lin when someone overstepped her authority.
“Republic City doesn’t need outside help solving our own cases,” retorted President Raiko. “I have complete confidence in Chief Roan.”
“This isn’t a matter of confidence. I am merely here as an extension of the White Lotus in order to assist you any way possible.”
Hands clasped firmly in front of him, Tenzin stepped forward and tried to mediate the situation. “I believe the President is just surprised that the White Lotus would be willing to assist in this situation. Perhaps, it would be better if you settled in the city and Captain, I mean, Chief Roan will keep you updated if they need the White Lotus’ help.”
“I do not wish to be misunderstood. The White Lotus has instructed me to be a part of this investigation,” stated Soraya firmly.
For some reason, Tenzin could hear Lin’s voice venomously opposing any intrusion from the White Lotus. It almost made him smile to think of her defending her police officers. But the newly instated Chief didn’t seem to have the same abrasive qualities that Lin was known for.
Instead, Chief Roan spoke slowly, “Since the White Lotus’ initiative has been to protect the Avatar, perhaps you could work with Avatar Korra, as she has volunteered her services.”
“What?!” cried Korra in surprise and placed her closed fists on her hips. “I’m not going to baby sit her!”
Soraya sensed the animosity in the room and smartly nodded her head and replied to the new Chief, “If that is how you think I will best serve this investigation, I would be happy to work with the Avatar.”
“Very well. It’s settled then,” spoke President Raiko as he ignored Korra’s sound of protest. “Chief Roan, I will be waiting for a new report first thing in the morning. Tenzin, you are welcome to join us. Ms. Soraya, you will be provided any relevant news by the Avatar’s liaison, Detective Mako. Everyone is dismissed.”
Korra stormed past Soraya muttering something about keeping up. Tenzin fell into step with Chief Roan as they walked toward the front of City Hall. When they reached the door, they watched as Korra got into a waiting Satomobile, Asami at the wheel. Soraya jumped gracefully into the back seat and the three sped off.
Tenzin turned his attention to the pensive new Chief of Police. Laying a hand on his metal shoulder, Tenzin offered some advice, “Keep your head up, Chief. We are asking a lot from you, but I know if Lin were here she would say-”
“To get off my ass and find a lead?” Both men chuckled at the thought. It did sound like something Lin would say. Chief Roan let out a sigh and continued, “Thank you for your support, Master Tenzin. I am concerned about the White Lotus’ involvement. Don’t you find it strange?”
“I do,” admitted Tenzin as he stared at the Satomobile driving quickly away. “I have found the White Lotus to be more mysterious than helpful in most times. But I believe you did the right thing. Korra will be able to handle her.”
Tenzin and Chief Roan parted ways with a stiff handshake. Oogi was waiting patiently for his master and nuzzled the airbender with a low bellow. Tenzin tried not to think of all the times Lin had been with him on the back of the sky bison as he propelled himself onto Oogi’s head. Everything reminded him of Lin. She was in every part of this city. With a sad voice, Tenzin urged the sky bison back towards Air Temple Island.
Chapter 5: Kya I
Chapter 5: Kya I
“Kya, what are you doing? Kya! Ahhh!”An extremely distressed Bumi slapped a hand over his eyes and continued to shout. “Kya! Put your dress back on!”
His cries went unanswered as Kya pulled her blue dress over her head, leaving her clad only in a dark grey slip. She left the dress on the grass and walked over to the edge of Air Temple Island. Below her, the water splashed up against the cliff side. Kya could feel the pull of the ocean and the need to embrace the element. The water wouldn’t leave her; water couldn’t leave her.
Behind her, Bumi was calling out for Opal and Pema, but Kya continued to ignore him as she stared out at the ocean. Kya had no concept of time since Tenzin and Bumi told her of Lin’s death. When she had pushed away the food Pema had brought her, it had only felt like minutes. Right now, as she stood in the open air in just her slip, it felt like years; years since the last time she had seen Lin, touched Lin, talked to Lin. In actuality, Kya woke up next to Lin just two days before the attack. They had breakfast. Lin went to work and Kya left for Air Temple Island. Had she kissed her goodbye? Lin wasn’t the over affectionate type.
A hand grabbed Kya’s arm and the thought of that last morning vanished from her mind. Lin was dead. There would be no more mornings; no more goodbye kisses. Bumi, a hand still shielding his eyes from her state of undress, was trying to pull her back from the ledge. Kya had been stepping closer and closer to the ocean as she thought about Lin.
“Kya, what are you doing?” he asked desperately and Kya finally realized that her brother was worried about her state of mind. Her heart went out to him; the ever kind and caring Bumi.
“I’m not going to kill myself, Bumi,” she reassured him gently. Her voice was hoarse and she realized that it was the first time she had spoken since Tenzin and Bumi had told her. “I just need to swim.”
Kya gently pried his hand away from her arm and took a deep breath, feeling the water that was flowing nearby. Taking two large steps she began to pull the water towards her, up out of the ocean and she jumped with her arms reached out for the embrace of the element. A tunnel of water embraced her to pull her into the ocean. The water soaked into her hair and skin and she could feel the cooling sensation of the element. Kicking out her feet she pushed her way to the surface.
Although her mother had taught her that there was always water around her, but Kya always felt better when she was swimming. The connection was instinctual and she had learned in her youth to allow the ocean’s natural waves to push her along instead of forcing her body to do the work. Kya could be quick and agile in the water, but she would rather just float. The water splashed over her shoulders and she closed her eyes.
Taking a deep breath, Kya concentrated on relaxing her entire body. She had been doing this for years as a type of meditation while in the water. Letting the water keep her body afloat, she started with her toes and feet, focusing her energy to relax them. Eventually, she worked her way up to her shoulders and neck, all the while displacing her body from its physical ailment. But as she began to relax, Kya realized that her pain was not physical. And although she had managed to connect her body with the water around her, her mind was in turmoil.
A dry sob escaped her and she wrapped the water around her tightly. Kya was tired of crying. Lin would have hated the tears. Of course, Lin didn’t like anything that could be considered overly emotional. Lin’s philosophy was that emotions were a personal matter that should not be exposed to or pushed onto another person. But Kya certainly didn’t mind when Lin did share her feelings- especially when it involved sex.
Lin was firm and strong in everything that she did. The way she held on to Kya when they kissed or how she seemed to consume her when they had sex was captivating. But she was capable of such a tenderness that surprised Kya. From her experience, Kya had determined that many earthbenders made love in the same manner that they bend: intense, intentional, and steadily. And Lin was all of these things. But as the years had gone on, Kya found herself entranced by the gentle touches and lingering kisses that Lin would bestow on her skin. Kya had fallen in love with Lin long before she had realized it.
Kya thanked the spirits that Lin knew how much Kya loved her. There had been no loud declarations or proposals of marriage, but Kya made her feelings clear. Nothing had stopped her heart more than hearing Lin saying, ‘I love you’. Lin lived simply and tried desperately to be private; it was a product of her upbringing. Katara and Toph had been very different mothers. But Lin had accepted Kya’s emotional need to connect with more than just sex. So, Lin learned to share what she was thinking and Kya took in each little admittance as if it were the last drop of water on earth.
Moving her arms slowly around her, Kya bend the water around her. There was no purpose to her ministrations, except to distract herself. All these thoughts of Lin were the past. Lin was gone, but Kya still remained. Glancing up at the sky, Kya spotted an airship heading towards the island. It was green with a large symbol on the side: Zaofu. Suyin Beifong was here.
That meant Kya needed to go back up to the house. Suyin was always a difficult subject with Lin and for years, Kya and Lin never spoke of her. But that had changed, little by little, due not in a small part to Lin’s newfound niece and nephews. Kya had been aware of Opal’s presence in her rooms during the first few hours after Tenzin and Bumi had broken the news, but Opal wasn’t Lin. And Kya needed Lin.
But she knew that Suyin was going to need to talk about Lin, so she took a deep breath and pulled the water around her to project her back up the cliff side. Ikki was waiting for her when she landed. Her niece was holding a clean dress and Kya was certain that Pema had put her up to it. The little airbender was as grounded as Kya had ever seen her and the thought that Lin had meant that much to Tenzin’s children brought a flash of saddness.
“Mother said you would need this and to tell you that everyone would be meeting Su in the dining hall. And that if you didn’t feel like seeing anyone, she would tell Su to come to your room. But I told her that if you didn’t want to see anyone, why should she send Su? Being alone doesn’t include other people, and if you want to be alone, then you should just be by yourself,” rambled Ikki as Kya pulled the water from her skin, hair, and slip and returned the water back to the ocean.
“Thank you, Ikki,” replied Kya quietly. As much as she wanted to see Su, the prospect of reuniting with Lin’s sister in front of the entire island was a little daunting. As she pulled on the dress Ikki offered, Kya realized her niece had stopped talking. Ikki rarely stopped talking unless she was sleeping. The eleven-year-old was staring at her intently with wide eyes. “Ikki?”
“Jinora and Kai said that you and Chief Beifong were like, more than friends…like Mommy and Daddy. So, I was wondering…” Ikki trailed off, bouncing back and forth nervously on her heels. Kya braced herself for the questions about how two women could be like her mother and father or why Kya liked women more than men. Instead, Ikki asked, “Does that make Chief Beifong my Aunt Lin? Because I’d really like another aunt. Does that make Su my aunt too?”
Before Ikki could ask any more questions, Kya swept her niece into a hug and held her tightly. Pressing a firm kiss on the top of the young airbender’s head, Kya said softly, “I love you. And you can have as many aunts as you want.”
“Ok!” said Ikki brightly and she grabbed Kya’s hand and started to lead her to the main house. Kya followed, knowing she was going to have to see everyone at some point. Better now than later.
To her surprise, the only people greeting Su and Baatar were Tenzin, Pema, Jinora, Bumi, and Opal. As soon as Su saw Kya, she let go of her weeping daughter to embrace her sister’s lover. Neither had the energy to cry or speak, knowing there was nothing they could say to comfort each other.
Su held on tightly to Kya’s arm as she turned and asked Tenzin, “Have you heard from Mother yet?”
“No,” he replied with a shake of his head. “Jinora even tried to project her spirit to where Toph had been living in the swamp, but she wasn’t there.”
“If she doesn’t want to be found, sweetie, then no one is going to be able to find her,” murmured Baatar as he stroked Opal’s hair.
“Korra and the others are in the city helping the police. I promise, Su, we’ll find who’s responsible for this,” assured Tenzin. “For now, why don’t we let you get settled and we can talk about everything later.”
“I could help you with your luggage,” offered Bumi to Baatar and the two men headed back to the airship. Pema grabbed Tenzin by the hand and dragged him toward the kitchen with Jinora and Ikki, leaving Kya with Lin’s sister and niece. Su settled herself on the couch with a deep sigh and Kya leaned back into a nearby chair.
“It doesn’t feel real,” protested Opal as she paced back and forth. She had forgone her airbender robes for something more Earth Kingdom traditional and Kya briefly wondered if it was for Lin.
“I know, dear. I feel like I just got her back. After everything I did, she finally forgave me and now this happens…” Su trailed off, lost in her thoughts of Lin. The woman looked just about as miserable as Kya felt. Which reminded Kya that she should probably eat something soon as her brief swim had left her exhausted.
“You can’t think about the past like that,” said Kya gently. “It will only make you feel worse. You are Lin were sisters again and there’s nothing that can change that. She loved you and your family, even if she wasn’t very good at showing it. Never doubt that.”
“How long has it been, you and Lin? She never answers me when I ask about you,” asked Su lightly, changing the subject.
Kya smirked. Even after all the effort both sisters had made to find peace, Lin still insisted on keeping her life private. With a sigh, she answered honestly, “I don’t really know…Lin and I have always been…fluid.”
“Fluid is not a word I would use to describe my sister,” said Su with a dry chuckle. She was right of course; Lin was stubborn and steadfast.
“I guess that’s not the right word. It’s just that I never wanted to ‘settle down’ and Lin was always too busy for a real relationship. We would go months, even years, without seeing each other and then suddenly we would be together.” Kya tried to remember those early years; the years that she wished she could have back now. But Kya had hated the thought of staying still and Lin didn’t want to stop her.
Opal joined her mother on the couch and snuggled up beneath Su’s arm as she listened to Kya talk. Sweetly, Opal murmured, “Sounds romantic. Like star crossed lovers.”
“It didn’t start out that way,” Kya reminisced. There was nothing inherently romantic about sleeping with your younger brother’s ex-girlfriend. In fact, the first time Kya had sex with Lin, it was anything but romantic. With a short chuckle, she decided to share the story. “Actually, the first time anything physical happened between us was probably ten years ago. I was in Republic City for a friend’s birthday and because Ikki had just been born, I decided to stay at Lin’s instead of coming here. I came back that night higher than a sky bison and she gave me quite the lecture.”
“You showed up at the police chief’s house after smoking lilyweed?” Su burst out laughing imagining her by the book elder sister putting up with Kya.
“No, I showed up to my friend’s house, who happened to be the police chief. Spirits, she was angry at me. And the entire time she was lecturing me, I just kept thinking she looked beautiful and so in my inebriated state, I thought it was a good idea to kiss her.” Both Su and Opal were laughing now and Kya felt a rush of pleasure that she could distract them from their grief. Lin didn’t share the details of her life with anyone and Kya was more than happy to make Su feel just a little closer to her sister. “We ended up having sex on the kitchen table…still have no idea how that happened. And mind you, we were both very sore the next day. But then I left. I don’t think it really bothered her, but it never made sense for us to just suddenly start dating.”
“You lived so far apart,” murmured Su, suddenly sobered as she thought about Lin. “And Lin was married to her job.”
“Exactly. So we both had other relationships, but when we were in the same place again…” Kya closed her eyes and let out a sigh. She felt like she had wasted years not pursuing Lin. “But Mom needed me and Republic City needed her.”
“Harmonic Convergence,” stated Kya simply, but she shook her head with a small smile. “That and we got old. I came here to help out with the kids and the new airbenders. I didn’t mind being tied to one place or one person any more. All I wanted was her…”
Su blinked back tears and said, “I can’t imagine Lin was easy to convince.”
“She wasn’t. Oh, she didn’t mind meeting up every once in a while, but she is not domestic at all. But then Zaheer attacked us at the Air Temple and when it was finally over, she came to me. I had scared her, being hurt in that attack. Lin was actually afraid that something had happened to me…I couldn’t figure it out. Lin had seen Republic City fall to mad men, she had lost her bending and quit her job; she had even gotten her job back and tried to restore peace to the city only to face the fall of the Earth Empire and what scared her was losing me.”
“She loved you,” said Opal simply.
A light cough from the doorway to the kitchen stopped the conversation. Jinora was waiting with a tray of tea. Su waved her in and made room for Jinora to sit next to her. “Thank you, Jinora. And tell your parents thank you for letting us stay here.”
“Of course,” replied Jinora. “Are Wing, Wei, and Huan coming?”
“Yes, I talked to them a few hours ago,” said Su with a frown as she continued her train of thought. “I can’t believe Mother isn’t here already. She called me in the middle of the night to say something was wrong with Lin, but I haven’t heard from her since.”
“She knows, right? That Lin is…” Kya trailed off and she felt a sudden rush of nausea. Saying the words out loud was a step too far. She wasn’t ready to admit that Lin was really dead.
“Mother said that she could see us, or rather feel us, through the vines in the swamp. When we were little she used to tell us that she had loved us since our hearts first started beating and that she could still tell that heartbeat apart from every other person in the world.” Opal handed her mother a cup and Jinora poured the tea carefully.
Kya politely declined a cup and walked over to a nearby window that faced Republic City. In a low voice, she said, “I’m sure Toph is just dealing with her grief. She always loved Lin, even when Lin didn’t want her to.”
They were all dealing with their grief. Kya’s eyes were misting up again. Toph should be here. The whole world was collapsing around Kya, but something felt off in the universe. Toph should be here. But so should Lin. Lin should be here too.
Chapter 6: Opal II
It was as if she was watching a mover. Opal felt that the world was moving without her. Her brothers had arrived this morning and were busy making plans with her parents. Her mother had decided to allow Raiko to have a ceremonial funeral for Lin even though everyone had agreed Lin would have hated it. But both Tenzin and Mako had pointed out that the city deserved to say goodbye to their Chief and Su had relented to their judgment.
“Opal?” She turned her head to the voice at the door. She had retreated to one of the many sitting rooms at the temple. Bolin was standing in the doorway, his hands stuff in his pockets. His dark hair lacked its usual glow and polish. Instead the black strands of hair lay haphazardly on his head as if he hadn’t run a brush through it in days. Pabu was draped across his shoulders.
“Hey…” she murmured and she curled up her legs beneath her to make room for him on the cushion. Pabu dashed quickly into her arms and nuzzled her face. Opal ran her fingers through his fur and let out a long sigh. A little pink tongue darted out to lick her nose and she tried to smile. Bolin wrapped an arm around her shoulders and pulled her close. Pabu curled up in her lap.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Opal glanced over at Bolin and asked, “Do you?”
“No,” he replied swiftly. His grip on her shoulder tightened and he said, “But if you do, I’m sure I can find Jinora for you…”
Opal felt her heart warm at his words. He didn’t always know what to say, but every once in a while, he said the exact right thing. “I love you, Bolin.”
“I love you too,” he replied and she snuggled into his broad chest. They sat like this for a while. Opal tried to relax to the steady rise and fall of Bolin’s chest as he breathed. Everyone seemed to be moving so fast outside of this room and she wasn’t sure she was ready to go back out there. For her mother, planning Lin’s funeral was an outlet for her grief. But Opal just wanted to be alone.
Bolin shifted uncomfortably and she looked up at him to ask, “Are you ok?”
“My arm is falling asleep,” he admitted and she let out a light giggle. Opal lifted her body away from him and instead, turned to face him. After shaking out his arm in a rather dramatic, but Bolin-like fashion, he told her, “Korra is on a warpath.”
This Opal knew. Tenzin had relayed to her mother and Pema what had transpired in Raiko’s office the day before. Korra had also already approached her and Jinora about organizing the airbenders to patrol Republic City. Opal had tried to ignore the fire in Korra’s eyes as she talked about finding those responsible. While Opal wanted justice for her aunt, she wasn’t willing to kill to get it. And the thought kept crossing her mind that Aunt Lin wouldn’t want Opal to do anything she would regret.
“Korra just wants to catch whoever is responsible…”
A frown crossed Bolin’s face when he replied, “She wants revenge.”
He had a point. And there was a difference between revenge and justice, something she recalled Aunt Lin telling her before. “You should go with her when she goes out looking for answers. Mako is going to be out for revenge as well and Asami will probably need help keeping them from doing something they would regret.”
“What about you?”
“I’m going to help organize patrols with Jinora. Tenzin has enough on his plate as it is…”
A minute went by as they sat across from each other, their hands linked across their legs. Hesitantly, Bolin spoke softly, “I don’t think Korra and Mako are the only people who are out for blood.”
“You mean Kya…” He nodded and Opal took a deep breath.
After she had witnessed Kya’s breakdown when Tenzin and Bumi told her what had happened, Opal had tried to talk to the waterbender. However, other than when her mother had first arrived, Kya hadn’t had much to say. Tenzin and Bumi had been worried that Kya wasn’t eating and was sleeping too much, but Pema had chased away the worried brothers and told them to let Kya grieve.
“She’s just not…” Bolin struggled to describe how Kya had changed, but ended up only saying, “…Kya.”
It wasn’t an eloquent sentence, but it was true. Kya wasn’t herself. It had been two days and as worried as they had all been at her initial reaction, it was as if a flip had been switched. Gone were the tears and sobs; in their place was a mood more reminiscent to Lin Beifong herself. Kya’s blue eyes that had once shown every emotion she was feeling (good or bad) were now dull and hard. Her entire body seemed to be brimming with tension. It was as if Kya had retreated so far from the outside world that she had left her body.
“She lost the love of her life,” murmured Opal, but she knew that Bolin knew that as well as she did. “Everyone deals with death differently.”
But she was worried about Kya. Opal was afraid that at any moment, Kya was going to snap and all that pent-up emotion was going to do more damage than anyone could think. Kya wasn’t violent by nature, but the woman knew how to put up a fight. Living up to being the avatar’s daughter was no small feat and many a person had underestimated Kya in the past.
“The Chief wouldn’t want her to be suffering like this.”
“No one would, but she’s…” Opal trailed off, unable to formulate an ending to her sentence. Gone? Dead? No longer here? She knew her aunt would have done everything in her power to make sure that Kya never suffered. But they must all meet death someday and being chief of police wasn’t the safest job a person could have.
Opal watched Bolin’s eyes flicker towards the floor at the mention of Aunt Lin, even though he was the one who brought it up. A realization dawned on her: he did want to talk about what happened, but was afraid of upsetting her. It struck her that he probably didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. Both Korra and Mako were obsessively searching for any clues to what happened at the station and Asami was busy keeping the rest of the world from falling apart.
“It’s hard on all of us,” she murmured and gave his hand a squeeze. “She meant so much to all of us.”
“But she was your aunt, Mako’s boss, Korra’s mentor, and Kya’s girlfriend…you have every reason to be upset, but she was just…well she was just the Chief to me.”
“Oh, Bolin,” she murmured. “You are part of Team Avatar…and Aunt Lin may not have said it, but I know she respected you. But you know her…she didn’t have the best social skills. If she didn’t think you were a good person, then she would have told me to break up with you.”
Bolin gave a small sigh and agreed, “I guess.”
“I mean, let’s face it…Aunt Lin didn’t really tell anyone what she was thinking.”
“Yeah…except Kya…” Opal’s mind drifted into the past.
Kya was in a great mood. Her smile was contagious and the airbenders at the temple were responding to her light and fun energy. Tenzin had been so serious since their encounter with the Red Lotus that that Air Temple Island had a constant feeling of anxiety. The only cloud in her aura was questions about Korra. Opal had gravitated to Kya’s energy…it was as if she was a flower in search of rays from the sun.
So, after dinner, Opal had sought her out. Pema had informed her that Kya had offered to clean the dishes so Pema could give Rohan a bath. The four-year-old had gotten into a new airbender’s paint set. Opal had avoided his blue hands and trotted down to the kitchen. But as she neared the door, it wasn’t Kya’s voice she heard; it was her Aunt Lin’s.
“I swear, Kya, I work with five-year-olds all day. If I stop watching one to help someone else, they immediately lose their damn minds!”
Opal paused at the door, not sure if she wanted to interrupt. Kya’s light laugh echoed through the kitchen. She was standing at the sink, bending water across the dirty dishes. Lin stood with her back to Opal at the door, arms crossed against the metal uniform.
“Of course you think this is funny…You’re no better!” exclaimed Lin as she raised her arms in the air in frustration. “I spend all day with half-witted officers and then come home to you!”
Kya threw Lin an aghast look and accused, “Is coming home to me all that bad?”
“What? No! Of course not…That’s not what I meant!”
Opal wasn’t sure what part of the conversation surprised her more: Kya’s implication that Lin and she were living together or her aunt’s voice when she responded. Lin had been worried that Kya was offended by her words. Opal had never heard Lin speak like that before; she almost seemed afraid that Kya would take her words the wrong way.
Kya set down the dish she was holding and faced Lin with a smile. “Babe, you are wound so tight. I was just joking…”
Lin let out a sigh and uncrossed her arms to lean forward against the counter. Kya walked over to stand behind her and wrap her arms around Lin’s waist. Opal would have thought the hug would have been awkward because of Lin’s metal uniform, but it seemed Kya had done this before.
“I just feel like at any moment, everything is going to go wrong. Between the unrest in the Earth Kingdom and all of the idiotic politics in the City and Korra’s recovery…I just know something bad is about to happen.” Lin’s voice was quieter than usual, but she seemed so comfortable sharing her fears with Kya. It was then that Opal realized that the couple had been together for a while to be this much at ease with each other. Lin didn’t share her feelings with anyone.
Lin straightened up to lean back into Kya’s arms. The waterbender whispered, “You need a break.”
“Isn’t that why you’re here?” murmured Lin in response.
“I’m always here if you need me.”
Turning in Kya’s arms to face her lover, Lin whispered, “I’ll always need you.”
The two women closed the distance between them to kiss sweetly. Opal could feel tears forming in the corner of her eyes as she saw her aunt in a brand new light. As surprising as it was that Kya and Lin were a couple, Opal was so glad to be in on the secret. Her aunt had someone in her life that loved her and was taking care of her.
Thinking about her aunt and Kya brought fresh tears to her eyes, which she hastily blinked away. She was so tired of crying. Bolin sensed this change in her emotional state and tried to pull her in for a hug, but instead, she ducked his arms. Rising to her feet, she bent over to press a kiss to his lips.
“I’m going flying. I just need some space.” Knowing her boyfriend understood, she left the room before he could reply.
Sweeping quietly through the hallways, Opal made it outside without seeing anyone else. Night had fallen and there was no one near the back door where several gliders had been stashed. She grabbed one and silently took a few running steps and pushed off into the air.
The wind greeted her warmly and she briefly closed her eyes in an attempt to block out the world. The currents of air swirled around her arms, legs, and body. Blinking her eyes back open she turned the glider to make a few laps around the island. There weren’t many people out tonight. The mood of the City affected the Island as well. The young Airbending Nation couldn’t forget that Lin Beifong had been part of their rescue team.
The garden was occupied by two people. It only took a moment for Opal to recognize her mother pacing back and forth in front of her father, who was sitting still on a bench. She couldn’t hear them from how high she was flying. All the sudden, her mother dropped to her knees and started shaking. Her father rushed forward to gather her in his arms. Su’s head was buried in his robes and her shoulders shook with sobs.
Opal had never seen her mother so broken. Even after Kuvira and Baatar Jr had betrayed them, Su had been strong; upset, angry, and even sad, but still strong. But tonight, she watched as her father held her mother close and rocked her back in forth in the moonlight.
Opal didn’t want to intrude, but Baatar glanced up and saw her hovering above. Opal felt the need to fly down to be with her parents, so she landed softly a few yards away. Baatar’s eyes didn’t leave her when he tilted his head down slightly to whisper in Su’s ear. Su took a few gasping breaths and raised shaking fingers to her face to wipe her tears.
Baatar opened one of his arms and Opal dropped her flying staff and ran to her parents. “Oh, my baby, oh my baby girl,” cried Su as she embraced her only daughter. “Promise me you’ll forgive your brother…promise me…”
“Su…” Baatar murmured, as if this wasn’t the moment.
“You have to forgive him,” Su cried again and she untangled herself from her husband. Still on her knees, she placed her hands on either side of Opal’s face and said, “I walked away from my family once…I caused my mother and Lin so much pain. Lin was strong enough to forgive me. I need you to have your aunt’s strength.”
“I will, Mom…I have been trying,” replied Opal genuinely as she began crying her own tears. Su kissed them as the dripped down her cheeks.
She could feel her mother’s grief as she hugged her. Baatar held them both solidly, as if he thought he keep them from falling apart with an embrace. Su kept mumbling that she had messed everything up and that she had lost so much time with Lin; it broke Opal’s heart as her mother sobbed that she had been responsible for the destruction of her family.
All Opal could think to say was, “I’ll forgive him, Mom. He’s forgiven.”
Chapter 7: Korra I
Korra took a deep breath and tried to concentrate as she held her hand to one of the green vines that made up the infrastructure of Republic City. Behind her, she could hear Asami, Mako, and Bolin trying to whisper quietly. Glancing down at the photograph in her hand, Korra tried to find the missing Officer Pari. Even though she could see the city through the vines, it was if she kept spinning around and around in a circle. Nothing was clear.
“May I inquire what we are doing?” asked a voice, interrupting Korra’s concentration. Bolin made a shushing noise and waved his arms at the White Lotus representative that was tagging along on their patrols. For the umpteenth time, Korra cursed President Raiko. Not because Soraya was rude or condescending, but because Korra didn’t want her there.
“Korra can connect with the Spirit Vines to search the city for Officer Pari,” whispered Mako who, judging by the dark circles around his eyes, hadn’t slept since the attack. Korra kept her eyes closed, trying to tune them out, but her focus was failing.
“I would guess that she isn’t still in the city…I wouldn’t murder police officers and then hang around.” Soraya had a good point, but Korra wasn’t interested in admitting it, nor did it seem any of her friends were either.
Again, Korra tried to focus, but something wasn’t right. It was as if this Pari person was still tethered to Republic City, but Korra couldn’t find her. The thought then crossed her mind that maybe since she had never met Officer Pari, it was difficult for her to focus on an energy she had never encountered. Letting out a grunt of indignation, Korra said, “This isn’t working.”
“Maybe somewhere else would be better?” asked Asami calmly as she approached Korra and laid a hand on her shoulder. Korra smiled weakly at her girlfriend’s attempts to encourage her, but she had a feeling that she wasn’t going to be able to track the missing officer through the vines. They were going to need a different approach.
“Pari didn’t do this alone,” said Mako, his detective’s mind hard at work. “Maybe we should focus on the other attackers for a while…”
Behind him, Soraya started to say something, but stopped. Inwardly, Korra groaned. Soraya was a trained member of the White Lotus and Korra knew they needed all the help they could get. Trying to channel her girlfriend’s calm acceptance of everyone, Korra asked, “Soraya, was there something you were going to say?”
The older woman nodded, causing her looped hair to sway. “I think Detective Mako is right. Everyone in the city is looking for Pari. Perhaps we should focus our efforts elsewhere, such as how the attackers got into the station.”
“Through the front door?” replied Bolin with a confused tilt of his head, but Asami seemed to understand what Soraya was trying to say.
“There were officers at the front desk, correct?” Asami asked Mako, her eyes lighting up with a theory. Mako nodded, so she continued. “Pari wouldn’t have been able to bring in enough people on her own into the back offices. There was no sign of damage to the entry and main booking area.”
“So they didn’t come in the front door…” said Bolin, catching on and Korra could see what Soraya and Asami were saying: how did enough people break into the offices of the Republic City Police in order to kill six people, including Chief Beifong?
“You think there was more than just Pari in on it?” Mako stared at Soraya, unable to believe that anyone would betray his fellow officers, let alone more than one. For not the first time that day, Korra wished the Chief were here- she would know what they were missing.
“Pssstt!” Korra whirled around, hands raised, at the sound of another voice in the area. Her friends did the same, searching for the newcomer, but none could be seen.
“Down here!” called the voice again and Korra finally rested her eyes on a plump little yellow spirit with green leaf ears: the Light Spirit. It had been over a year since the small spirit had led her to Toph’s swamp. Now it was half hiding in spirit vines just a few yards away from Korra and her friends.
Korra’s body relaxed and she knelt to get closer to the Light Spirit’s level. Eying the others wearily, he hopped over to the Avatar and sensing his uneasiness, Korra whispered, “What is it?”
“I shouldn’t be here…” the tiny spirit muttered and he hopped nervously in a circle, as if making sure no one was watching. “But I need to tell you…”
Unsure what had caused the Light Spirit’s sudden appearance, Korra lowered herself from her knees to sit cross-legged and motioned for the spirit to crawl into her lap. Some part of her was telling her that the little yellow spirit knew something that could help them. “It’s my job as the Avatar to help you.”
“I’m here to help you. Spirits aren’t supposed to get involved in human matters!” Korra remembered her desperate pleas for the spirits to help against Kuvira’s attacking forces, but knew that if the Light Spirit had come to her, there was a reason. The Light Spirit spoke his next words quietly and quickly: “They are working together…there are some spirits that have been convinced by humans to attack other humans. It’s wrong. We should mind our own business…”
Everything was falling into place now. How the attackers had penetrated so deep into the station without raising alarm; how six police officers had been killed in their own office; how Lin Beifong had been murdered. The Spirits wouldn’t have been stopped by walls or brute force. That’s why the officers seemed to have been taken by surprise and why they had not managed to take down a single one of their attackers.
Suddenly, the Light Spirit startled in her lap. His green ears perked and he dashed from Korra with a frightened squeak. Behind her, she heard Mako let loose a wave of fire. Asami was by her side in an instant, one of her electrical sticks already in hand. Air pushed Korra into a standing position and she saw what had caused the Light Spirit to run.
They were surrounded by no less than eight large spirits. Two of them had thick bodies with large fangs and horns. More were slender with long legs and tails like the eelhound. One stood on two legs with great wings that flapped in the air. Unlike when Unalaq corrupted the spirits for his own devises, these spirits did not burn dark. They were as bright and colorful as the Light Spirit had been. A chill ran down Korra’s spine.
An orange spirit was engaging Mako, easily dodging his streaks of fire. Bolin was throwing rocks toward multiple targets and Soraya was fending off the attack of two green spirits with mongoose dragon-like bodies using water from a pouch at her hip. Asami hovered to her left, armed with her latest technology. They were outnumbered and Korra braced herself for the fight to come.
One of the spirits with horns lunged at her and Korra ducked right and kicked out flames from her foot. She moved the air around her to push two others back, sending them tumbling across the vines and broken concrete. Bolin launched Mako into the air and the elder brother drove a flaming fist through the orange spirit’s head. Korra pulled water from the river nearby to freeze the feet of one of the long-legged hounds. Asami whirled around behind it to send the electricity through its body.
“We need a plan!” shouted Mako through bursts of flame.
Korra stepped hard on the ground to break free a piece of earth from beneath the vines and sent it flying towards another spirit. “I’m thinking!”
“Korra, they’re spirits…can we even beat them?” asked Asami, suddenly at Korra’s side again.
Bolin dodged the purple claws of a quick spirit, but barely had time to defend himself when another came from behind. Mako and Soraya both came to his rescue, but the odds were against them all. Korra glanced toward the spirit portal and an idea quickly came to mind.
“Everyone stand together and let’s push them back towards the portal!”
Responding to Korra’s order, the group formed a line to begin their assault. Knowing it would be hard to destroy the spirits, they revised their tactic to merely move the spirits. Korra and Soraya flanked the group and used water, ice, and in Korra’s case, air to force the spirits into a cluster. Bolin and Mako worked to push the spirits toward the portal while Asami attacked any stray spirit that escaped from their semi-circle.
Slowly, but steadily, they pushed to spirits toward the glow of the portal. Then, on que from Korra, they struck. Everyone lashed out against the spirits in a last effort to push them into the portal. One by one, the spirits disappeared into the shimmering light. Korra then began to bend the vines and the energy of the portal. The vines melded with the portal itself, creating a matrix of energy. Korra focused all her thoughts into binding up the portal; energy flowed through her and it guided her to caging in the spirits.
In moments, it was done. Interlinking vines swept around the portal and trapped the spirits from entering the physical world. Korra wasn’t sure what made her think of this plan, but she was glad it worked. It seemed the vines were on her side, even if just a while ago they had not been very helpful in finding the missing officer.
She turned to her exhausted friends who bore the marks of the quick but brutal battle. Clearing her throat, she said, “I guess the spirits aren’t happy about something…”
Mako choked out a bitter laugh. “That’s the understatement of the day.”
“Why would they be involved?” asked Soraya to no one in particular. Korra instantly felt bad for her ill thoughts of the White Lotus member. She and her friends would have been even more outnumbered if it hadn’t been for Soraya.
“I thought spirits didn’t care about human problems,” said Bolin as he massaged his shoulder.
“Unless this isn’t about humans at all…”
The water was still steaming when Korra turned off the shower. The shower had felt good against her skin after the fight. Her brain was still reeling at the revelation that spirits had been behind Lin’s death. It answered so many of her questions about the attack, but at the same time, so many more were swimming through her brain. Korra bent the water off her body and out of her hair to dry off before leaving the bathroom.
In the bedroom, Asami was standing in a pink satin robe staring out the window. Still naked from her shower, Korra approached her from behind, wrapping her arms around her girlfriend. Asami let out a long sigh.
“That much on your mind?” asked Korra, marveling at how the satin of Asami’s robe felt against her dark skin. But Asami wasn’t in the mood to cuddle. She squirmed out of Korra’s arms and started pacing. Korra flopped on the bed and waited for Asami to speak.
“I just can’t imagine that spirits would kill humans,” she finally said, exasperated.
“I mean, it’s not the first time we’ve seen this. Remember Unalaq?”
Asami didn’t even look at Korra as she retorted, “Your uncle used bending and Vaatu to corrupt the spirits. The ones that attacked us today were no different than the spirits we met during our vacation.”
She had a fair point. One that Korra had long been contemplating in the shower. In every other interaction with spirits, they had refused to help or even interact with humans. Not that spirits and humans were always friendly, but there usually weren’t casualties. At least not to the extreme of the attack on the police department.
Propping herself on her elbows, Korra confessed, “It makes me feel a bit better…”
“What?” Asami finally stopped pacing to look at her girlfriend.
“That Lin was ambushed by spirits…I don’t know…” It didn’t sound as good out loud as it did in her head. What she meant to say was that she had been angry that some random people had managed to kill her friend and mentor; that the idea of Lin losing a fight to a metal bender fresh out of the academy had been nagging at her mind. But it made more sense to Korra that spirits could have taken Lin by surprise.
It didn’t make her death hurt any less. Korra startled at the feeling of Asami’s hand on her bare shoulder. Asami’s green eyes were full of pity and sorrow as she stared at her. “I know what you mean.”
Korra tried to smile, but it felt fake. “Lin was just so strong…it felt wrong that someone had murdered her in cold blood.”
“It is wrong,” replied Asami simply and pressed a kiss to Korra’s temple.
They sat there together on the bed for a moment before Korra spoke again. “I don’t ever want to know what Kya is going through.”
“I’m serious, Asami.” Korra straightened up and took Asami’s hands in her own. “Asami Sato, I love you. I look forward to waking up beside you; I love seeing you smile; I can’t wait to hear about your next invention. I can’t imagine what Kya is feeling right now.”
“I love you, too,” replied Asami simply. Korra realized she must sound very serious. She had lost count of the number of times she had told Asami she loved her. But today was different. Korra needed Asami to know that she loved her with every fiber of her being. Looking into the green eyes of her girlfriend, Korra suddenly realized that she needn’t worry. Asami knew how deep their bond was.
Swallowing back the mounting emotions in her chest, Korra murmured, “I spoke to Kya when I first realized I had more than feelings of friendship for you. It was before I came back to Republic City. For some reason, I thought everyone wouldn’t understand that I liked girls more than guys…especially after everything with Mako. But Kya knew exactly what to say. She was the reason I decided to tell you how I felt after Varik and Zhu Li’s wedding. And now…”
“You should go talk to her,” urged Asami.
“But what do I say?” Korra felt the beginning of tears in her eyes and tried to shake them away. “How do I tell her it’s all going to be ok now that Lin’s dead? What do you say to someone who’s lost the person they love most in the world?”
Without any hesitation, Asami laid down next to Korra and wrapped her arms around the naked body of the avatar. Korra felt the tension and grief flow from her body as she began to cry in Asami’s arms. Asami soothed her and whispered how much she loved her as they laid their together. Korra closed her eyes and tried to think of the times they had laid like this in the spirit world.
Almost an hour later, Korra awoke to gentle kisses on her face. Asami had slipped out of bed and was bending over Korra. Once the room came into focus, she noticed that the sun had gone down and Asami was dressed again.
“I’m going to make some dinner,” Asami proceeded to tell her. “Put on some clothes and come downstairs.”
“Why do I have to put on clothes?” groaned Korra. “It’s not like anyone is here.”
“I’m not having dinner with a naked woman,” replied Asami and then she turned and left the bedroom.
“Yes ma’am…” Korra pushed herself off the bed and walked to the closet.
Chapter 8: Mako II
The papers and photographs scattered across the floor of his apartment were starting to blend together. Mako knew he should take a break, but there was something he was missing. The problem was, Mako didn’t know what he was missing. He was so absorbed at staring at everything around him that he barely heard the knock on his door.
He had reported what the Light Spirit had told them to a weary Chief Roan after the fight with the spirits that afternoon. The interim chief told him that he would meet with everyone first thing in the morning to decide on how to move forward with the case. So that left Mako alone in his apartment with every piece of evidence they had gathered so far.
Running a hand through his messy hair, he jumped over the mess on his floor to answer the door. To his surprise, Soraya was standing on the other side, a bag in her arms. Puzzled, he said, “Hello.”
Soraya raised an eyebrow and shifted the bag in her arms to get straight to the point. “Have you eaten?”
“Food…nourishment…needed for survival…” she repeated sarcastically. She practically pushed him out of the way to get into his apartment and paid no attention to his grumbling about this action. “I brought tentacle noodles. But I wasn’t sure if you liked water tribe food, so I picked up some seaweed wraps and octopus fritters.”
“Thanks?” Mako shut the door and watched her make room on his table to unpack her bag.
She was wearing the traditional blue dress of the water nation instead of her White Lotus uniform. He did notice that she hadn’t changed her hairstyle. Thin loops of brown hair stretched from her forehead back into the long ponytail. Why was he looking at her hair? It was then that Mako noticed her staring back at him, holding out a pair of chopsticks. The look of query on her face made him think he had missed something.
“I asked if you wanted to join me.” Soraya waved the chopsticks to emphasize her words. With a low chuckle, she added, “You seem to be in an entirely different world.”
Mako really hoped his cheeks weren’t burning as red as they felt. He was just tired, he told himself. That’s why he had noticed the small silver moon charm she wore around her neck. Snapping back to reality, he muttered, “I’m not picky. Tentacle noodles are fine.”
“Great. I know I always work better on a full stomach.”
Crossing his arms, Mako didn’t move. “What are you doing here?”
Soraya stopped lifting a fritter to her mouth to reply, “I thought that was obvious. I’m here to help.”
“Then why aren’t you with Korra?”
“Honestly, I figured you’d be doing the sort of work I could help with,” she shrugged. “The Avatar is very action-forward. Which is fine, we did learn new information. But she is not a police officer…you know the value of investigating.”
She was right. He had left Korra and the others to come back to his apartment to sift through all the clues the department had collected. Photographs of the crime scene were plastered on his walls and he had taken to tossing the papers every which way whenever they frustrated him. Hence the paper covered room.
“Mako, you need to eat,” urged Soraya. Again, she was right. His stomach growled and the sound of noodles and fritters sounded delicious. He didn’t know what to say as he stepped over the mess he had made to reach the table. She picked up a folder and opened it to begin reading. “Pari seems just like any other officer on the force. Entered the Metalbending Academy at the age of eighteen. Scored average marks and graduated in the middle of her class. Not bad, but not a stand out either. Looks like she’s been on patrol for almost six months now.”
“Yeah, she was partnered with Ming, who died in the attack. New recruits spend a minimum of six months shadowing an older officer to learn the City. Then the Chief will decide where they’ll be most useful. I think she had about two weeks left before she was given a permanent assignment.”
Soraya flipped the page in a copy of Pari’s personnel file to keep reading. “Looks like Ming said she was friendly, but quiet. Nothing good or bad. Seems very average.”
Mako shrugged. He had only said hello to Pari on a handful of occasions. She was a metalbending officer and he was detective. They didn’t cross paths much. In fact, when they had discovered she was missing, he had to look at her picture to remember who she was. Like Soraya said, Pari was average and blended in with the rest of the new recruits.
“She has a small personnel file, even for just being on the force for a few months. The only thing in here besides the mandatory reviews is an incident report from her last year at the Academy. Seems she was injured by some cables…but was fine except for some scaring around her thigh. I mean, how boring can someone be?”
“Except she assisted in the biggest massacre the Republic City Police have ever had.” Soraya didn’t have a reply to Mako’s statement. Instead, she put down Pari’s file to pick up another and some chopsticks.
They sat in silence for a few hours, occasionally passing a folder or photograph, but mostly keeping to themselves. Mako had pulled every incident file involving spirits from the past five years. Nothing that Mako had linked spirits to Officer Pari or even to the Republic City Police Force. Although, most of the officers felt that the Chief had been the main target of the attack. The evidence suggested she had been tortured before being killed.
But the question became were they torturing her for their own pleasure or for information? There were plenty of people in the world that would have wanted to see Lin Beifong suffer. She had made plenty of enemies over the years. But some of the officers believed the killers had been after information. Mako agreed with this theory, because no one had taken credit for the attack on the Station. If this was just about revenge or showing the police that even they weren’t safe, someone would be bragging. Unfortunately, they had no way of knowing if the killers got the information they were looking for. And if they did, what was coming next?
Soraya let out a deep sigh. The sun had set a while ago and the food was long gone. Mako hadn’t even bothered to ask how long she intended to stay. Mako threw the folder he had just read through into his ‘Not Relevant’ pile. Although there wasn’t a ‘Relevant’ pile. So, it was just a pile of folders and reports.
“Apart from being around when the spirit portal was opened, did Chief Beifong have any other connection to the spirit world?” asked Soraya. She was leaning back in the chair, her eyes closed, clearly frustrated with their lack of progress.
“Not really…Chief wasn’t a spiritual person. In fact, I don’t think she’s even been to the spirit world.” Mako thought back to fighting Unalaq and realized that Chief Beifong had been in Republic City the entire time. “She does interact with spirit here in the City though…after the spirit vines took over and the spirits moved in, she worked with the Avatar and other city officials to find some sort of peace between the two worlds.”
Soraya frowned. “But if this was about being angry with the way the spirits have been handled in Republic City, then why not attack the President or the Avatar? Wasn’t the Air Nation involved in settling the spirits?”
“Not to mention, most of that took place years ago. The portal in Republic City has been here for almost a year…”
“So, we still don’t have a motive,” concluded Soraya with a sigh. She stretched her arms into the air and let out a long yawn. “I should get going. Chief Roan’s meeting is in a few hours.”
“I’ll see you then.” Mako’s muscle ached as he stood to walk her to the door. “Thanks for keeping me company.”
“Sorry we didn’t make any progress.”
“We’ll try again after some sleep…see you at the meeting.”
The meeting itself was a big waste of time in Mako’s opinion. Mainly, it was to update the rest of the department on the results of the investigation and autopsies. Then Chief Roan had told them about the involvement of the spirits and the room went haywire. Many of the officers were calling for blood, or rather, whatever it was that happened to spirits when they were hurt.
Mako tuned out the officers around him. Let them go after the spirits, but someone still had to figure out why spirits were after the Chief in the first place. He opened the autopsy reports in his hands, flipping past the other seven officers to Chief Beifong’s. The cause of death was still listed as unknown. He felt a burning of anger in his chest; not only could they not find her killers, but they didn’t even know how she died.
The coroner had listed ever mark on her body, recent or from the past. She had taken quite a beating, even with her armor on. Her arms, torso, and legs were covered in bruises. But most of the damage had been from the attack. Honestly, he thought there would be more scars from her years of service. But other than the scars on her face and one on her thigh, there was very little to note. And the circular scar that wrapped around her thigh had been relatively recent; the coroner suspected it had occurred in the past year.
Something clicked in his head. A circular scar on the thigh that happened about a year ago. What was it that Soraya had said last night, that there was an incident report from Pari’s last year at the Academy? Seems she was injured by some cables…but was fine except for some scaring around her thigh. The Chief had been in her fifties and on the force for most of her life. It didn’t make sense that she would only have the one lasting injury.
He practically ran from the meeting as Chief Roan was giving orders for bringing the spirits to justice. Sprinting down the hallway, he went into the office where the personnel files were kept. The Chief’s had already been pulled and was sitting on the desk. Unlike the single, thin folder that was Pari’s, the Chief had an entire box. Mako wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking for as he sifted through report after report.
After the first dozen injury reports, he knew there was no way that the body lying in autopsy was Lin Beifong. He didn’t know how it was possible, but it wasn’t her. Then the thought crossed his mind that he knew where Officer Pari was. That’s why no one could find her; why Korra couldn’t see her through the vines. Pari was dead, but she was wearing the Chief’s face and armor.
Mako’s heart was hammering as the pieces fell into place. At first, he turned to go back to Chief Roan and tell him what he had discovered but stopped at the door. How was he going to explain this? That Pari had the Chief’s face, but wasn’t really the Chief? They were going to think he was crazy. He needed to get back to Air Temple Island and tell Korra. She would believe him and together with the rest of the team, they would find the answers.
As he hurried toward the entrance of the Police Station, he realized what this meant: Lin Beifong was alive. If Pari was the person in autopsy, then Chief Beifong was still alive. He could still save her and she could set everything right. He broke into a jog, eager to bring this new information to Korra and the others.
But just as he was passing the radio room, he heard a female voice. No one should be there; everyone was still in the meeting with Roan. He peaked in the door, ready to tell whoever it was to get out, when he recognized the looped hair. It was Soraya, her back to him, talking into a radio. For some reason, he paused at the door, listening carefully.
“I couldn’t find anything that directly linked a specific spirit…” she was saying. “Mako gave me access to all his files, but it was a dead end.”
She paused, listening to whomever was on the other side of the call.
“The avatar closed up the portal in the City. You may be able to get to one of the Poles faster than I could. Someone may be watching to see if anyone tries to get through.” Again, she paused. “No. Which means they aren’t finished. When the Firelord arrives, I’ll be sure to stay close.”
Who was she talking to? What did Firelord Izumi have to do with any of this? Mako had thought at first that she was reporting back to the White Lotus, but this seemed different. Especially when she said, “Don’t worry. The Avatar doesn’t know of the White Lotus’ or the Order’s involvement. I’ll be sure to keep it that way.”
Mako’s stomach dropped. The White Lotus had been involved in the attack on the department? One thing was clear, Soraya knew more than she was telling. And he had given her access to all the department’s files. He had to get back to Air Temple Island to warn the others.
Chapter 9: Interlude
Zuko was waiting patiently by the radio in a remote city on the northern coast of the Fire Nation. It had been a little over two days since the news of Lin Beifong’s death had reached him. A messenger from the White Lotus had told him of the news, but Zuko had no way of contacting Izumi or anyone in Republic City. The messenger had assured him that the Fire Lord was safe, but he had to know for himself.
It had taken a hard day’s travel to get to the outpost where there was a working radio. Izumi had assured him of her safety and that she was traveling to Republic City for Lin’s funeral. He would have preferred her stay in the Palace, but she was Fire Lord after all. It was after the phone call with Izumi that it hit him that Lin was dead; Toph’s firstborn who grew up to be the fierce woman he adored.
Tears had come to his eyes, sitting there in the radio station, when he thought of her taking her last breath. He had been there to hear her cries as Katara delivered her into the world. Zuko honestly believed that he would leave this world before his children. Although Izumi was his blood, they were all his children in a way: Kya, Bumi, Tenzin, Lin, and Suyin. But Lin had reminded him of himself sometimes. She yearned as a child to earn the respect of the father that didn’t exist and her young adulthood saw a brooding, unforgiving woman. Like Zuko, though, she had come into her own.
But she was gone. Murdered. And it was all his fault.
His guards had not said a word about his tears and he did not bother to hide them. There was no way to make this right, but he would not let Lin die in vain. The next call had been to the White Lotus member assigned to the City: Soraya. All she had time to tell him was that she would be working with Korra and that she would report within twelve hours.
Which left Zuko waiting. They had been traveling for about a month through remote parts of the Fire Nation. Two years ago, word had reached the White Lotus that a group going by the anonymous name, ‘The Order’ had been gathering information about the Spirit World and one spirit in particular.
Spirits were not born in the same sense that humans were. According to his own research and accounts of spirits he had befriended over the years, new spirits appeared when they were needed or when their counterpart had been destroyed or faded from existence. A few months after Korra opened the spirit portals, Zuko made the decision that the White Lotus would be acting as ambassadors for humanity. It was during one of these meetings that they learned that a new spirit had entered the world.
Not much was known for the other spirits were not very forthcoming with information. But from what the White Lotus could gather, this spirit was in relation to the Lion Turtle. It seemed that spirits took time to take a corporal shape. For now, they were calling the spirit Neo. Like the Lion Turtle, Neo had the ability to grant the of bending- but on a much larger scale. If the Order got ahold of Neo, the world as they knew it could collapse.
Zuko had decided that the Order was a terrible blend of Equalists and the Red Lotus. But instead of taking away bending or throwing both the human and spirit worlds into anarchy, they desired a world where humans and spirits did not differ. Neo could dismantle the differences between spirits, benders, and non-benders and plunge the unsteady peace into chaos.
With the help of Iroh and a few of his spirit world friends, the White Lotus had carefully hidden Neo safely away. However, Zuko knew better than to trust too many people with the secret and after a few close calls, Neo was moved again and this time, Zuko only allowed Iroh to tell two people. The White Lotus did not know the location nor did Zuko himself. Instead, he asked a great person risk of two people he trusted more than anyone else: Izumi and Lin.
And that decision had led to Lin’s death. When he asked this of the two women, everyone had known that dying for this secret could be a possibility. Lin faced that reality every day on the job and the Fire Lord was no stranger to threats. But still his heart ached.
She wasn’t the first to die for this secret. The reason Zuko was traipsing through the northern part of the Fire Nation was because several high-ranking members of the White Lotus had been found dead. As far as the public knew, they had died of natural causes. But Zuko knew they were victims of the Order and had been tracking a faction through the Fire Nation.
Zuko had tried to warn Lin and Izumi that the Order was trying to track Neo down by murdering anyone who failed to tell them where the spirit was. But both were stubborn women, taking after their mothers, and assured him that they had taken the proper precautions. As much as he feared for Izumi now, Lin filled his mind.
Lin had always been the little shadow of her mother. Strong willed and powerful, she rose quickly in Toph’s footsteps, whether Toph liked it or not. But Lin had a wickedly dry sense of humor that set her apart from Toph. And as she grew, Lin became her own woman and Zuko was as proud of her as he was Izumi.
His little tea pot was brewing on the table and he sat with his memories of Lin in silence until the little woman who ran this radio station suddenly flipped a few switches and removed her headset to hand it to Zuko. With a small bow she left the office before Zuko greeted the woman on the other end of the line.
“Soraya, thank you for getting back to me so soon.”
Her voice was clear and steady on the other end of the line. “I called as soon as I could, sir.”
“How is your research coming? Were Korra and her friends any help?” Soraya had told him earlier that President Raiko had assigned her to the Avatar, but Zuko had asked her to not inform Korra exactly what was going on yet. He didn’t want to make the Avatar a target for the Order.
“I couldn’t find anything that directly linked a specific spirit…” she replied. “Mako gave me access to all his files, but it was a dead end.”
“My contacts here still don’t know who the group’s contact is in the spirit world. I’m getting closer to their headquarters, but it’s slow going. Have you tried entering the spirit world?”
“The avatar closed up the portal in the City. You may be able to get to one of the Poles faster than I could. Someone may be watching to see if anyone tries to get through.” Zuko was surprised that Korra had closed the spirit portal, but he trusted her judgement. And he was glad that she was working with Mako. Lin’s unofficial protegee had a good head on his shoulders.
“So, the Order hasn’t claimed responsibility for the attack or tried to spread their propaganda?
“No. Which means they aren’t finished. When the Firelord arrives, I’ll be sure to stay close.”
Soraya clearly shared his fear that the Order would target Izumi next to get the answers they failed to extract from Lin. “Thank you, Soraya. If Lin died before she told them, Izumi will be their next target. We can’t let Korra and the others know too much about the group. Right now, they aren’t targeting her. We need to keep it that way.”
“Don’t worry. The Avatar doesn’t know of the White Lotus’ or the Order’s involvement. I’ll be sure to keep it that way.”
“I wish you luck.”
“You too, sir.”
Ending the call, Zuko took a deep breath. Izumi was still in danger and the Order had great patience. She may be safe for now unless they knew that he was getting closer. Blowing on his tea, he started to take a sip as he contemplated what to do next, but was interrupted by a noise outside. His guards were yelling at someone. Odd though, Druk wasn’t causing a fuss down in the courtyard. Looking out the window, the dragon was still sleeping soundly.
Then he heard a familiar grumble. “I don’t care if you know who I am or not. Get the hell out of my way or I’ll make you.”
“Ma’am, no one is to enter the radio tower-”
“Tell Zuko to get his spoiled, flaming-”
“Toph…” Zuko kept his voice low as he opened the door to face his old friend. His guard looked uneasy, but he dismissed him. He had no doubt that she knew that Lin was dead whether Suyin and Tenzin had been able to contact her or not.
“Why the flameo are you hiding in the mountains?” She padded over to the table and picked up his abandoned tea. “We’ve got work to do.”
Zuko didn’t know what to say. How do you console a mother who just lost her child? But it didn’t surprise him that she was focused on revenge. “Toph, I don’t know what to say…”
She paused between sips to stare at him with blank eyes. “What’s wrong with you?”
He blinked at her, unsure how to reply. “I’m so sorry Toph, it’s all my fault. I should have offered her more protection. I should have done more-”
“Then what are you doing here? Let’s go get her!”
“Toph…” his voice was low. Was she in denial or had she finally lost her senses completely? “Let’s go back to Republic City together. I’m sure we can get there before the funeral.”
Now Zuko was concerned. He took a few steps toward her and murmured, “Lin’s dead, Toph. I talked to Izumi yesterday.”
“Dead?” she scoffed. “You got bad information. My girl’s still fighting. They’ve stolen her and are keeping her from the earth. But I can still feel her. She’s alive, Zuko.”
Chapter 10: Lin I
The paperwork was nearly done and the words were starting to swim in front of Lin’s face. The nightshift had arrived three hours ago and had been sending someone in every half hour to remind her that she could pick up on paperwork in the morning. But honestly, Lin would rather just get it done now. Kya was at Air Temple Island for a few days to help Tenzin induct new Airbenders so she would be alone at the apartment.
It had been a normal week, relatively speaking. The two new stations had finally started to function smoothly in the new neighborhoods and crime had dipped to a more manageable level. As she had explained to President Raiko, crime was never going to stop. Otherwise, what would be the need of a Police Department? But the City had been in transition since Kuvira’s attack and Lin felt that they were finally getting back to something that resembled normal. But new stations meant new officers and new officers meant additional paperwork.
Saikhan had poked his head in about fifteen minutes ago saying he had worked late to close an assault case and was almost done with his paperwork if she needed help. She told him to go home to his wife and he had made a quip about she had her own old lady to get home to before returning to his paperwork.
Once he had shut the door, Lin couldn’t help letting out a chuckle. About four months ago, Saikhan had discovered that she and Kya had been living together and refused to let her live down the fact that she had told no one that she was in a relationship. It wasn’t as if she had meant to keep it a secret. She just wasn’t sure how her force would react to her dating a woman. Apparently, they could care less. She had arrived at the office several times to find Kya with lunch entertaining her officers.
It was almost midnight and Lin knew she should leave the rest of it for the morning. Yuke flung her door open and declared to the other officers, “She’s still here. Get back to work!”
“I’m leaving, I’m leaving,” Lin grumbled back and started to pack up as Yuke laughed and headed back into the main office.
Something caught her eye outside her window. A shadow? She wasn’t sure. Setting down the stack of files on her table, she started to walk to the window, but before she could look out, a bright light blazed through it, forcing her to close her eyes and turn away. At the same moment, she heard shouting outside her door. Then the shouting turned to screams and something snapped in Lin: they were under attack.
Flexing her hands and feeling the cables begin to pull, Lin started for the door. However, before she ever had a chance to open it, two spirits dropped from thin air in front of her. Instinct took over and metal cables spun out straight at the spirits, but they dodged easily. In the milliseconds it took to redirect the metal to follow them, she felt a prick on the back of her neck and she felt herself falling. Her office grew dark and she hit the ground, listening to the cries of terror in the room next door.
Her eyelids were heavy as Lin tried to open her eyes for what seemed like the hundredth time. Her limbs felt distant and she couldn’t even lift her head. Time was passing without her knowledge, but she knew it had been more than four days since her abduction. She also knew that they had been drugging her repeatedly so they could move her from place to place. Lin had no idea where they were going, only that they only asked one question: “Where is Neo?”
Her captors knew she knew. But Lin had years of interrogation training on her side and the will of the earth. To her surprise, they didn’t try to torture her. They just kept moving her to a new place, giving her more sedatives, and asking the same question. From what she could gather, they were taking her to someone in charge, but seemed to be going the long way. Lin figured that was to make sure no one was following them.
Even though she couldn’t move, Lin was trying to keep herself as active as possible. She couldn’t give in to the darkness and weakness. Whenever they finally got wherever they were going, she needed to be strong. Of course, she had given real thought to letting the drugs take over and giving into death. They wouldn’t be able to get what they wanted that way. But then they would go after Izumi and Lin couldn’t die knowing that the Fire Lord and her family would be put in further danger. Izumi had a nation to run; Republic City would move on without her.
The thought flitted across her mind that Izumi had a family and she didn’t but that wasn’t true anymore. Years ago, Lin would have laughed at any person who would have told her she would miss having her sister around. Su had swept back into her life just as quickly as she had left it. But that was Su: intense and dramatic. But Lin had felt the surge of joy when Su brought her family to Republic City to visit. She had a family.
A tear that she was unable to brush away fell down the side of her face from the corner of her eye. Along with the sedatives, they also had her strapped to a wooden table with leather straps. She couldn’t turn her head very well, but from what she could see when she managed to open her eyes she knew she was in a wooden crate. The rickety wheels bounced on the uneven roads; Lin guessed she was being pulled by something. Every once in a while, she could actually feel the earth as they moved along, but she was too weak to even move a pebble.
To pass the time when she wasn’t sleeping, Lin thought of Kya. It was easy to see Kya’s blue eyes when the drugs made it too hard to open her own. Kya’s bright smile caused Lin’s lips to twitch upwards. Even though she couldn’t move her hands, Lin imagined running her fingers through Kya’s long grey hair. Lin loved it when Kya let her hair down. The ponytail was always so neat and traditional. When Kya brushed her hair out, Lin would watch as the long lengths of grey would settle over Kya’s dark shoulders.
“You’re staring,” Kya would laugh with bright blue eyes and that wonderful smile. She would turn away from the mirror to look over her shoulder at Lin. Her hair would slide down her back, giving Lin the perfect view of her bare skin.
Lin never knew what to say when Kya called her out for things like this. Ever since Tenzin, the majority of her relationships had been passed in silence. Not a suffering sort of silence, but a rather comfortable one. No one doted on her, nor was there any need to be overly affectionate back. It wasn’t as if she didn’t trust her past lovers with anecdote of the day or an outward projection of feelings, but that Lin didn’t want to.
But Kya did. And thus, Lin found herself sitting at the dinner table listening, and sometimes giving her own input, as Kya chatted. More than that, Lin found herself enjoying it. Of course, Lin liked the silence just as much as she always did. Except for right now. She would give anything to hear Kya talking or even Su.
“You awake?” Kya’s not so soft voice often broke the silence in the bedroom. Lin’s response was to grumble and clamp her eyes shut. Why Kya enjoyed talking after sex when Lin just wanted to sleep was beyond Lin’s comprehension. The woman couldn’t just go to sleep. If there was something on her mind, she had to tell Lin about it. However, falling asleep to the sound of her voice wasn’t the worst thing in the world.
But Lin was awake now. Sleep would come and go because of the drugs they were using, but it was a rough slumber. She was a light sleeper; years of being a police officer had taught her to awake to any sound. The cart was noisy and bumpy and she was mentally fighting the drugs. Every time she’d suddenly snap awake, she’d wonder if they were finally at their destination, but the cart just kept moving.
The only time the cart stopped was to feed her and inject her. Although ‘feeding’ was a relative term. One of the water benders would practically force some sort of liquid mush down her throat. Lin guessed it was filled with just enough nutrients to keep her from wasting away, but not enough to give her any energy. Not that it would have mattered; as soon as the mush was force fed to her, a needle pricked her arm and more drugs were introduced into her system.
Lin had seen this method of feeding before with patients too ill to eat on their own. Katara and Kya both used it frequently when they worked in the hospitals or tended to the wounded who ended up on their doorstep. Kya was always so gentle when she bent water and not just when she was healing. Aang had often said waterbending was like dancing and watching his wife dance was one of the most beautiful things. It had taken a few years but Lin had finally agreed.
Kya’s long arms moved rhythmically as she shifted from foot to foot. Delicate fingers twirled the water around her, making it spin and spray. Rohan and Ikki were screaming in glee as slender columns of water danced through the air. Lin watched from the bank, a faint trace of a smile on her face as Kya entertained Tenzin’s children. She was beautiful; the smile, the way she moved her body, all of it. The water was dancing with her- a perfect couple.
Of course, they weren’t a perfect couple. They had both been on their own for too long. Lin knew that she was far too stubborn, but Kya could be too free-spirited sometimes. Kya had never held down a job for longer than a year, if you didn’t count being a part-time healer, while Lin had been married to her job since she announced to Toph she want to be a cop. Their families were even different. Even though Aang, Katara, and Toph had raised their children together, they didn’t have the same experiences growing up. Kya was the quintessential middle child and Lin was the hard headed eldest born to a single mother.
They could be awful to each other when they fought. Lin knew how to use her words to cut deep and Kya could give it as good as she got it. But they weren’t twenty and didn’t have the rest of their lives ahead of them. So as bitter as Lin could be and when Kya’s patience wore thin, it didn’t take them long to forgive.
All that could be heard was the clinking of spoons against bowls. For two hours, neither had spoken, but no one had left either. Lin was too stubborn to walk out of her own house and Kya stayed just to annoy her. So, dinner was made and eaten in silence. Lin was the first to speak, “I’m not going to change.”
She always knew. Kya knew her so well. Lin wasn’t even sure when she fell in love with Kya. It had been slow and steady until the woman occupied every thought. It wasn’t a young love that left her daydreaming in her office, but a gentle love that assured Lin that Kya would be there at the end of the day. There was plenty of passion, but there were also tender moments when they were both too worn out to make love.
“I love you.” Kya’s voice was soft after a hard day.
“Yeah?” Kya squeezed her tight as they lay in bed. Lin didn’t bother to hide a smile when Kya’s legs moved to intertwine with her own. Kya loved to be close. And Lin loved Kya. A single kiss pressed into her shoulder as Lin began to drift off to sleep.
But it wouldn’t be Kya who woke her again. There would be no sweet kisses or gentle caress. No silver hair on bronze shoulders. Just hard and unforgiving wood beneath her back and the rumble of wheels on the road. Groaning, she wiggled her fingers and toes, trying to find some feeling. Nothing. The first time it happened, it had taken all of her self-control not to have a panic attack. The numbness had been too much of a reminder of when Amon had taken her bending.
But after a few minutes, she had realized that her bending was still there and the drugs were merely dulling her senses. Lin figured that if she could actually touch the earth, she would still be able to bend. But they were keeping her from the earth and so her senses were dull. But they had to eventually stop somewhere. They couldn’t keep her from the Earth forever.
They also couldn’t hide forever. She knew that Kya, Su, Tenzin, the Police Department, and the Avatar and her friends would be looking for her. It wasn’t the first time she had gotten herself into a bind and knew that they would be looking for her. The Order was smart; they had been avoiding the White Lotus for over two years. But it seemed the Order was moving toward their endgame and it was possible that they had been less cautious. She had faith that Kya and her sister could find her. And Korra. She had faith in Korra too.
Voices outside the cart alerted Lin to her captors once again. She had been so out of it, she hadn’t even realized they had stopped. It hadn’t been long enough since her last injection to get another one. Something was going on. But the voices didn’t sound panicked or worried, so no rescue party. That only left one other option: they had reached their destination. The door to the cart opened and a man climbed into the cramped space.
“Time to answer our questions, Beifong.”
Drawing from the little strength she had left, Lin spat, “Fuck you.”
Chapter 11: Korra II
Korra stared at Mako in disbelief. “She’s alive?”
“It’s the only explanation. From the very beginning something felt off, but we all just assumed it was us grieving for the Chief. But I think this is the answer!” he answered enthusiastically. Korra hesitated and sat down to think over what he had just said.
She, Asami, Opal, Bolin, and Jinora were gathered in a spare room at Air Temple Island. Mako had spent the last ten minutes explaining his theory that Lin had survived the attack and it was really Officer Pari that was dead in her place. She had to admit that the evidence was convincing, but Korra had seen Lin’s body at the morgue the afternoon after the attack. It was an image that was hard to banish from her mind.
“Mako, are you sure you aren’t just grasping at thin air here? None of us want Lin to be dead-” Asami had cautiously started to speak but was interrupted by Opal.
“If there’s a chance she’s still alive, we have to find out!”
Korra could hear the desperation in Opal’s voice and a part of her agreed. But it had been Lin’s solemn face that was pale on that morgue table. For days now, she had been working hard to accept that Lin was gone. But Mako seemed so convinced. A hand came to rest on her own. Asami was looking at her with concerned eyes.
“I saw her, Mako,” started Korra. “It was Lin.”
Mako shook his head and waved the thin manila folder at them. “This is Pari’s file.” He pointed at the box on the table in front of them. “That’s the Chief’s. I’m telling you, that’s not the Chief.”
“How could that even be possible? Tenzin said she was wearing her armor and I saw her face. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it!” Korra’s voice was rising as the image of Lin on the morgue table continued to float in her mind.
“If she is alive,” started Bolin, his hand intertwined with Opal’s. “Where is she? I mean, Mako, I want her to be alive as much as you do, but this is Chief Beifong we’re talking about here. She wouldn’t run away.”
“I think she was taken. I think the entire attack on the Station was to take the Chief. Why else would someone go through this much trouble to make us think she was dead?”
“That still leaves two questions,” replied Asami. Korra was a bit surprised that Asami thought Lin could still be alive, but a look at her serious face made Korra realize that Asami was simply trying to make the others consider the options. “Why and how? Why take her, but make it look like she was dead? And how did they make Officer Pari look like Lin?”
Jinora cleared her throat from her place in the corner. “I may be able to answer the how.”
Korra shouldn’t be surprised. If anyone had the knowledge to explain this madness, it would Jinora. She spent most of her time now that she was airbending master traveling to different libraries around the world.
“It’s not like they could just take her face and stick it to this Pari person,” said Bolin. Korra had to agree. Lin’s eyes kept staring at her from the morgue table.
“No, nothing like that. I don’t think they took her face at all. I came across a spirit called Kun when I was researching my grandfather’s encounter with Koh, the Face Stealer.” The others grew silent as Jinora calmly told her story. “Koh was born to the Mother of Faces who has the ability to grant faces to all living creatures. She is known for granting new identities to those who sought her out in the Forgetful Valley. Her son, Koh steals the faces of people who show emotion to add to his collection. What most do not know is that the Mother of Faces had another son, Kun.
“After she and Koh became estranged and she saw how he used his gifts, she was sad. But she still loved her sons. So, when Kun asked for a gift of his own, she granted his wish. But she had learned a lesson with Koh so she only allowed him to change the faces of those who were already dead. Kun saw this as an insult and he too became estranged with the Mother of Faces. Unlike Koh, who seeks out humans to steal their faces, Kun disappeared.”
For a moment, no one spoke. Even with the revelation that spirits had been involved in the attack on the Police Station, Korra had never even considered that a spirit had possibly manipulated Lin’s body. “Let me see that file again.”
Mako handed the autopsy file to her and Asami and Opal gathered close to her to read it for themselves. Korra wouldn’t have even thought to look past the notes on the injuries Lin had sustained during the attack. But Mako was right, it seemed every wound had been sustained in the past year or so. That couldn’t be right- Lin had been a police officer since her early twenties.
Heart hammering, she swallowed. “We need to tell Tenzin. Present this to him and see what he thinks. I don’t want to take it to Su or Kya yet.”
“I agree with Korra,” said Asami. “I believe you, Mako. And with what Jinora said, it is possible. But we can’t get everyone’s hopes up. If this really is Officer Pari and not Lin, then we still have a problem. Someone has Chief Beifong and we’re almost three days behind them.”
“There’s one more thing,” added Mako, who looked relieved that his friends believed him. “I overheard Soraya talking to someone on the radio this morning. I think she has something to do with all of this. She said something about how we didn’t know that the White Lotus was involved and that she would stay close to the Fire Lord when she arrived.”
Korra’s skin crawled. Everyone had been suspicious of Soraya when the White Lotus had sent her. But the young woman had not tried to push an agenda or overstep in any way, so Korra had been ignoring her. She kicked herself for allowing Lin’s death to distract her.
“Are you sure?” asked Bolin, clearly surprised by Mako’s revelation.
“She came over to my apartment last night to help me look through all the police files Roan let me take home. I thought…” Mako shifted uncomfortably. Korra tried not to laugh at the thought that Mako had been won over by another pretty face. But that wasn’t fair. They had all turned a blind eye to Soraya because they were worried about a bigger problem.
“Don’t blame yourself, Mako. I’ll get to the bottom of this,” decided Korra.
“I’ll go with you,” offered Asami, but Korra shook her head.
“I don’t want her to be suspicious. You should go with Mako and the others to tell Tenzin.” She then remembered that Fire Lord Izumi would be arriving any time now. “Opal and Jinora, get Kai and Ikki and fly out to find the Fire Lord and escort her in. If Soraya is targeting her for some reason, I want Izumi to know about it.”
So Korra left Mako, Asami, and Bolin to find Tenzin and Opal and Jinora to find Izumi. She had her own person to find. If Soraya was looking for Izumi or trying to stay close to the group to learn more about the case, she should be coming to Air Temple Island. Korra hoped that Soraya didn’t know that Mako overheard her and would be sailing over to the Island. That would mean she could meet her coming off the boat.
As she waited by the dock, Korra tried to think of a plan. Instinct told her to force Soraya to confess, but experience told her that probably wasn’t the best idea. She did have the element of surprise on her side. Soraya was unaware that Mako had overheard her conversation, which meant Korra may be able to trick part of the truth out of Soraya. Korra had never actually asked what the White Lotus had sent her to do. She could start with that.
She could see the boat approaching in the distance and started to walk down the dock when a voice called out behind her. “Korra!”
Suyin was walking along the edge of the island, alone. Korra hadn’t had a chance to talk her one on one since Su had arrived from Zaofu. To be honest, Korra didn’t know what to say. Su and Lin’s relationship had been so complicated that Korra hadn’t known what to say.
“What are you doing down here?”
“I could ask you the same thing.”
Su let out a deep breath and shrugged. “The funeral is tomorrow morning and I needed some space. I love Baatar and I know he’s trying his best to support me, but he’s smothering me.”
At first, Korra hesitated to tell Su the truth. Korra knew that Su was looking for someone to blame just as much as she was, but Korra didn’t have any actual proof that Soraya was involved. But then again, maybe facing Lin’s sister would pressure Soraya to tell the truth. And if worse came to worse, she could certainly use Su’s help.
“I’m waiting for Soraya.”
“Who?” Su frowned in confusion.
Mentally, Korra slapped herself. Of course, Su wouldn’t know who Soraya was. She had been mourning her sister and planning the funeral. “She’s a representative from the White Lotus who was assigned to help find out what happened.”
“Why would the White Lotus send someone to help with something like this? I mean, I guess I’m glad, but Lin’s murder doesn’t have anything to do with you or the Avatar cycle. Does it?”
“No, that’s why I’ve decided to have a little face to face with her. Mako overheard a strange conversation and I’ve got some questions.”
Su thought it over for a moment and then asked, “Would you like some back up?”
Korra let out a smirk, “I was hoping you would say that.”
Matching each other stride for stride, the two women walked down the dock. Soraya was one of the first off the boat, followed by several Air Acolyte and Airbenders. She held up a hand to greet Korra. Good, she didn’t suspect anything. Soraya nodded her head politely to Su and said, “I was just coming to find you.”
“That makes two of us. This is Suyin Beifong and we were wondering if we could talk to you.”
Soraya’s eyes flittered between the two of them before gathering her composure. “I’m sorry for your loss, Mrs. Beifong. The White Lotus sends their regards.”
“Thank you.” Su turned on her heel to lead them away. Soraya went next and Korra followed in the rear. Su led them off the regular path and soon came to a stop under a tree.
“Is there something I can do for you,” Soraya asked Korra, obviously confused about the situation.
At that moment, Korra forgot every clever question and the plan she had come up with. She lashed out and grabbed Soraya but the front of her White Lotus uniform and shoved her back against the tree. Her free hand lit with fire and she growled, “Why are you here?”
“Korra!” called out Su in surprise, but the metalbender did not make a move to stop her.
Soraya didn’t fight back, but she also didn’t answer. Korra asked again, “Why are you here? What interest does the White Lotus have with the Police Station murders?”
“Korra, maybe we should talk about this calmly,” tried Soraya, but stopped speaking when Korra’s fire burned at a higher intensity.
“Unless the White Lotus already knew that there were spirits involved and sent you to find out more. But why not tell us? You’ve been lying since you got here!”
Su’s voice came from behind her. “Spirits? Spirits murdered Lin?”
“No! I mean, not really. Or at least we don’t think so. I’m sorry she’s dead, but she was working for the White Lotus-”
“What!?” shouted Korra and Su at the same time. Metal clamps flew past Korra and wrapped themselves around Soraya’s wrists.
“It’s time to stop lying and talk,” snarled Su as Korra stepped back so they could interrogate Soraya together.
The woman shook her dark hair and protested, “I can’t tell you! I shouldn’t have even told you that. I told President Raiko the truth. The White Lotus sent me to help with your investigation.”
“But you knew that spirits were involved!”
Soraya hesitated, but then admitted, “Yes. But I don’t think it was spirits that killed her. The group that is working with them is who killed her. The spirits just helped take the station. I think they killed her trying to get information.”
“Lin would never give in to torture. She wouldn’t have told them a thing.” As the words left Su’s lips, the older woman let out a gasp. Korra put a hand on her arm to comfort her. She knew what was playing through her mind- Lin dying as they tortured her.
“Why not tell us all of this from the beginning? Unless you had something to hide!” Korra pressed on. “Is that why you are waiting for the Fire Lord? Is she next?”
Soraya’s eyes widened in surprised. Korra felt instant satisfaction. Su’s voice dropped an octave as she said, “If you want to get to Izumi, you’ll have to go through me first.”
“No, wait-” cried Soraya, struggling a bit with Su’s metal restraints. “That’s not it at all! But I can’t tell you, I’m not supposed to say anything! Please, I’m on your side.”
“Avatar Korra! Suyin! Stop!” Korra and Su turned around to face the towering slim figure of Fire Lord Azumi. She was flanked by Opal and Jinora. “Su, let her go.”
“Su, let Soraya go and I will explain everything.” Izumi looked down her silver glasses at her childhood friend. Su never broke eye contact with Izumi as she flicked her wrist and the metal fell to the ground. Soraya rubbed her wrists, but otherwise did not move. “She’s working for my father. I trust her completely.”
Izumi raised her hand to stop Korra. “I understand that you feel she lied to you. She was under strict instructions not to report anything to you until we could gather more information.”
Korra felt the heat rising in her face. “I’m the Avatar! The White Lotus is supposed to work with me!”
“The White Lotus was designed to protect the Avatar and the Avatar cycle. I apologize for all of this secrecy. My father did not want to involve the Avatar. So much has happened to you in the past few years and the White Lotus thought they could handle this.”
“Lin’s dead, Izumi,” snapped Su. “I don’t think they’re handling anything.”
Izumi’s voice quivered slightly when she spoke again, “I’m sorry, Su. I can’t even find the words. But Lin…Lin and I agreed to this risk when my father came to us. He needed someone he could trust to keep a secret, someone outside of the White Lotus. He chose Lin and I.”
“Lin was working for the White Lotus,” repeated Korra in disbelief.
Izumi nodded, “Well, Lin considered it more working for Father than for the White Lotus. But essentially yes. He thought the Order would not think to look outside of the White Lotus.”
Korra was beginning to think Izumi’s presence only caused more questions than answers. “The Order?”
“The Order is a fringe group that is searching for a spirit that could change the course of humanity,” she explained simply.
“And that’s why Lin’s dead,” murmured Su. This time Izumi paused and took two long strides to Su and wrapped her arms around her. Su let out a little sob, but let her old friend comfort her.
Korra swallowed back the lump in her throat and shifted from foot to foot. Soraya still stood frozen under the tree. With a groan, Korra shuffled over to face her. “I would like to apologize for what just happened.”
“It’s alright, Avatar Korra. I understand how stressful this has all been.” Soraya still looked nervous, but Korra trusted Izumi. Some more explanations were in order, but if Izumi said she was on their side, then Korra believed her.
Izumi touched Korra’s shoulder and murmured, “Let’s get to the Temple. I can explain more there.”
Glancing to Opal and Jinora and then back to Izumi and Su, Korra replied. “Yeah, we have some news too.”
Chapter 12: Kya II
Breathe in, breathe out. There was chatter all around her, but Kya was focusing on breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. She tried to process what Mako and Korra had just told them. Tenzin, Bumi, Izumi, and Su were gathered in the dining room to hear Mako’s theory. Could it be possible? Could Lin really be alive? Breathe in, breathe out.
Kya nearly jumped out of her skin when a hand touched her shoulder. A smooth voice said, “How are you holding up?”
“Is she alive, Izumi?” Kya looked at her old friend as if the Fire Lord held all the answers. “What did we miss? Is she still out there?”
“I don’t know,” admitted Izumi and squeezed the hand on Kya’s shoulder. “Do you believe them?”
“I want to.” Oh, how she wanted to believe it. The pieces of her heart may be able to be put back together again if Lin was really alive. “I need her to be alive.”
“We all do.”
“But where is she?” asked Tenzin loudly and everyone focused on him. “If Lin is alive, where is she?”
“That’s the part we can’t figure out,” admitted Mako. “But Fire Lord Izumi said she knew something about the people who may have done this.”
Kya glanced toward her friend, trying not to get her hopes up that Izumi could bring Lin back to her. That wasn’t fair to Izumi or herself. If Lin was alive, she was out there somewhere, and they were going to have to work together to find her.
“Almost two years ago, Father came to Lin and myself to ask for help hiding a spirit from a renegade group called The Order. We were the only two people who know where the spirit is. Of course, that was a secret as well. My father and I believe that the Order found out that Lin knew the location of the spirit and attacked the Police Department to find out.”
“She had been tortured before she died,” murmured Tenzin.
Mako cleared his throat. “It looked like she had been tortured. But if that was really Pari, then they had to force her into the Chief’s uniform. Most likely, they captured Pari before the attack on the station and tied her up.”
“If that’s really Pari,” argued Tenzin. “If these Order people tortured Lin for information, she could have died during the interrogation.”
“Lin wouldn’t give up the location of the spirit,” said Kya more firmly than she intended. Her breathing had steadied, and she was completely focused. The pieces were falling into place. Lin was alive. She had to be alive. So now Kya needed to find her.
“I agree,” said Izumi with a nod. “If Lin had told them where to find the spirit, they would have gone after it. If Lin died before she told them, they would have come after me. Neither of those things have happened. Based on what the Avatar and Officer Mako have said, I believe that Lin may still be alive.”
“So, the Order kidnapped Pari, attacked the Police Station, incapacitated Lin, switched the bodies with the help of that face stealing spirit-”
“Not exactly…Jinora says that he just switches the faces of the already dead. It can be any face, but the person whose face is changing has to be dead,” interrupted Korra.
Kya barely heard her as she continued, “Then took Lin somewhere to continue interrogating her. So, if the Order doesn’t come after Izumi or get to the spirit, then Lin is still alive.” As soon as the words left her mouth, she was left with the realization of what Lin was going through right now. If all of this was true, the Order was torturing Lin as they were speaking.
“Exactly!” cried Mako. “We need to track them down!”
Kya’s brain was working overtime. She practically ran from the room. She had to locate Lin now. They were hurting her, she knew it. Lin was alive and being tortured and Kya needed to get to her. Taking the steps out of the temple two at a time, she glanced around the garden. Finally, she spotted her niece and Kai hovering together.
“Jinora! Jinora! I need your help!” Kya rushed over to them and spoke quickly, “Lin’s alive, I need you to try to find her…with your spiritual projection abilities.”
Jinora hesitated before softly saying, “I’ve been trying since this morning after Mako told us his theory, but I haven’t been able to find her.”
“I mean, I think I can feel her. When I’m concentrating I can sense her aura-”
“Aunt Kya, that’s what I’m trying to tell you. I can’t sense where her aura is coming from, I’m sorry.” Kya closed her eyes and let out a sigh. If Jinora couldn’t find her, then Korra probably couldn’t either. If Toph was here, she might be able to locate her daughter, but the metalbender was still missing. “I’m sorry, Aunt Kya. I’ve tried.”
Kya’s heart went out to her niece. This wasn’t her fault. “I know, Jinora. I’ll find another way.”
Time for Plan B. Well, she guessed that asking Toph for help would have been Plan B. So, this was probably Plan C. Actually, there were probably at least two better options she wasn’t considering. So, it was time for Plan E.
“Bumi!” Her brother was next to her quicker than she expected. Kya raised an eyebrow at his sudden presence, before smiling to herself. Bumi had been trailing her ever since he and Tenzin had told her of Lin’s death. She loved him and reminded herself to thank him later for being such a good brother in her time of need.
“You believe she’s alive,” he stated rather than asked.
“Yes. I need you to find Su. We’re going on a little mission.” At first, Kya thought Bumi was going to refuse or tell her she should tell Tenzin. But instead he nodded. “We’re going to the spirit world.”
A half hour later, Kya, Bumi, and Su were standing in front of the portal. Kya crossed her arms and looked at the vines that wrapped the glowing portal. This could potentially be a problem. She now remembered Korra telling them that she had used the vines to entrap the spirits that had attacked them.
“What’s the plan?” Su hadn’t even hesitated when Kya had informed her that she planned on going into the spirit world to get answers.
Bumi and his little spirit had circled the portal. Hands on his hips, he declared, “I think we can climb through.”
“You think that will work?” asked Su skeptically and Kya had to agree. Surely the answer wasn’t that easy.
Her brother shrugged. “Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer.”
Su cautiously approached the vines and tentatively reached out a hand to touch one. Nothing happened. Kya almost let out a sigh of relief. Su pulled herself over the thick branch and rolled into the portal. Kya quickly jumped through after her and she heard Bumi come in behind them.
“Look out!” screamed Su as she bent the earth in front of her to rise to block a spirit that had been speeding towards her. Kya automatically pulled water from the pouch on her hip and lashed out at the brightly colored spirits surrounding them.
“I think they were waiting for us!” shouted Bumi.
Kya slashed an ice blade at a purple eelhound shaped spirit. “I think they were probably waiting for Korra, but we still have to deal with them.”
The three worked together to fight the surrounding spirits, but to Kya’s dismay, they didn’t seem to be making much progress. Her brother had the same idea and yelled, “We need a plan!”
“We need to escape! I have a feeling none of them are going to answer our questions.”
Kya glanced at where Su was fending off two spirits at once. “What are we supposed to do? Run?”
The purple spirit dived at her and Kya barely managed to roll out of the way in time. Gritting her teeth, she jumped back up to resume the fight. Bumi was bouncing around them obviously confusing his spirits, so they just moved on to Su and Kya.
“We need a distraction,” muttered Kya and used her water to block several hits by a green spirit.
Blue fire ripped past Kya to collide with the green spirit. Kya’s first thought was that the spirits were fire bending and a small panicked shudder went through her. But then she realized that was ridiculous. More blue fire swirled in the area and Su and Bumi backed up stand beside Kya. The grass in front of them caught fire.
“Need a hand?” A cool voice came from the portal. Kya let out a sigh of relief as she whirled around to find Fire Lord Izumi behind them.
“Umi!” cried Bumi. It was a childhood nickname that the two had given each other because the last three letters of their names were the same. The fire burned in the grass in front of them, effectively holding off the spirits for now.
“We should go,” said Kya over the crackle of the flames.
Izumi looked as if she was about to ask a question but thought better of it. Su pointed south of their location and the group started off toward the edge of a forest. Of course, this was the spirit world, so the forest was actually mushrooms of various shapes, colors, and sizes. But for the time being, it hid them from the spirits that had attacked them.
“How did you find us?” asked Su, clearly just as relieved as Kya to see their old friend.
Izumi straightened her glasses and said, “You three just took off. Since you didn’t tell Tenzin or the Avatar, I assumed you were up to something dangerous to find Lin. Since none of us know where the Order is keeping her, the most logical step would be to go to the Spirit World to speak with spirits who might be involved with the Order.”
“Logically,” replied Bumi, almost mocking her, but it didn’t faze Izumi.
“I’m sorry it took me so long, I had to lose my security detail. Of course, I wasn’t expecting for you to be in a full-fledged fight or I would have brought my security.”
“It’s better you didn’t,” said Kya immediately. “We need to talk to spirits and the entire Royal Guard probably wouldn’t convince them to be forthcoming.”
“What is your plan?” Izumi had always been the one with a plan: master firebending, tour the world, marry her childhood sweetheart, have perfect children, become Fire Lord. And of course, she had succeeded in every aspect. Kya on the other hand, never had a plan.
“Go into the spirit world,” said Bumi with a wild smile.
Izumi looked between him, Su, and Kya before taking a deep breath. Kya knew exactly what she was thinking. Izumi, Tenzin, and Lin had always gotten on better than the three wild children of the Team Avatar family. Of course, Kya had purposely not invited Tenzin because he would have told them that their plan was stupid. And Lin wasn’t here. But she was alive and that’s what really mattered.
“That’s it?” she asked skeptically.
“We’re going to find the spirits that are working with the Order,” added Su.
“I believe we should proceed back to the portal then, as I can assume they are working with the Order.”
Kya shook her head at Izumi’s dry voice. “Give me some credit, Izumi. Those spirits are merely pawns. We’re looking for Kun.”
Izumi regarded her for a moment then nodded curtly. “Not a bad plan. Where is Kun?”
“No idea,” admitted Kya.
Bumi puffed out his chest, “Don’t worry, Bum-Ju and I will get to the bottom of this.” The little dragonfly-bunny popped up over Bumi’s shoulder. Bumi whispered to his friend and the spirit chirped back before flying off quickly.
“Um, where is he going?” asked Su, before Kya could get the words out. She trusted her brother and his military mind, but sometimes she thought he was getting senile with age.
“He’s got a few contacts here in the Shroom Forest.”
“Of course, he does,” replied Izumi dryly.
“So now what?”
“We wait for him to come back,” said Bumi as if that was the most obvious thing in the world.
Kya let out a huff of impatience and turned her back on her brother. She didn’t have time to wait for Bumi’s little friend to track down Kun. Lin was probably being tortured as they stood here. They had wasted so much time thinking she was dead. Su had practically planned Lin’s funeral in the time it had taken for them to figure out Lin was still alive.
A hand touched her back gently. It was Su, her eyes filled with concern. “We’re going to find her, Kya. Lin is strong. She is resilient. And she knows we’re coming for her.”
“We don’t have time for this!” Kya didn’t even know why she was so angry all of the sudden. It had been her idea to come into the Spirit World to look for Kun. What did she think was going to happen? That Kun was going to meet them at the portal? The Spirit World was infinite. Bumi was right, letting Bum-Ju ask around was a good idea.
“Thank you for coming,” said Kya to Izumi. “And thank you for not telling Tenzin.”
“I’m sure he’s working with Avatar Korra and her friends on a different angle. I thought I could be of more use here. Soraya would be able to provide them with any information from the White Lotus.” Izumi always thought things all the way through. Of course, she didn’t just wildly come after Kya and the others without having a plan.
It was about five minutes before Bum-Ju came back with two more dragonfly-bunnies. Bumi bent over to listen to their twittering and stood up to report, “I know where Kun is!”
Chapter 13: Tenzin III
Chapter 13: Tenzin III
Tenzin was furious. Of all the idiotic, immature, risky things that his siblings had come up with over the years, this one had to be one of the top five. It didn’t surprise him that Suyin had been dragged into their insane plan, but Izumi was the Fire Lord! He would have thought she would have been able to talk some sense into them.
“The Spirit World?! I thought Korra closed the portal!” He was shouting and he knew his face was growing redder by the moment.
“The Avatar succeeded in keeping the spirits in, but it would seem that humans can pass back and forth without issue,” replied Izumi calmly, as if they were talking about the weather.
“None of that matters,” scoffed Kya, her eyes alight for the first time since they had told her about Lin’s death. She was practically vibrating with positive energy. “We know where they’re holding Lin! Please, we need to get the group together and go-”
Tenzin knew what was driving Kya. He knew his sister was desperate to reunite with her girlfriend. There had been very few times in his life that he had seen Kya so dedicated to a goal. It had taken him a while to realize how much Lin meant to Kya, but he had never seen his sister in love before.
“How do you know the spirit didn’t lie to you?” Tenzin was skeptical. This spirit had played a part in murdering police officers in order to kidnap Lin.
“I believe him,” declared Bumi as he thrust out his chest.
Su stepped forward, saying, “You weren’t there, Tenzin. Kun was surprisingly honest-”
“You’re right, I wasn’t there!” Tenzin exclaimed. “Because you nut-brains went without me!”
Bumi threw his arm around his fuming brother and asked, “Are you mad because we went to the spirit world, or because we went without you?”
“Arg!” Tenzin jerked away from Bumi and resisted the urge to punch him in the face. Just as he opened his mouth to retort, Kya spoke up.
“We know where Lin is!” Her voice had climbed to a level that Tenzin could remember from his youth. Kya didn’t often lose her temper, but when she did, it was dangerous territory.
Izumi placed a gentle hand on Kya’s shoulder, but her eyes were attempting to calm down Tenzin. Tenzin took a few deep breaths and let his heart rate slow down to a more tolerable rate. Izumi spoke slowly and calmly, “The spirit explained that he had no allegiance to the Order. Kun was simply asked to swap the faces of a deceased body with that of an unconscious woman.”
“He just swapped the faces, no questions asked?” It just didn’t make sense. Why would Kun help the Order for nothing in return? And why would he flip on the Order? “How do you know he isn’t leading us into a trap?”
“We don’t,” shrugged Su.
This time before Tenzin could speak, he was interrupted by the door opening. Korra, Asami, and Mako entered. Korra exclaimed immediately, “Where have you four been?!”
“The Spirit World,” replied Bumi cheerfully. Tenzin rolled his eyes.
Mako looked to the girls in confusion. “I thought we closed the portal?”
“That’s not important. We know where Lin is!” Korra’s eyes lit up at Kya’s words and Asami grabbed her arm excitedly. Mako seemed to straighten for the first time in days. Tenzin groaned internally. No matter if it was a trap, they were certainly following Kun’s lead now. There was no way the kids wouldn’t want to explore this.
“What are we waiting for?” Korra turned to Tenzin. He had no idea why she would immediately assume he was the reason they weren’t already on their way. “Let’s go!”
“We should really think this through,” warned Tenzin. The last thing they needed was for someone to actually die. Or to find out that Lin wasn’t alive after all. However, he couldn’t easily sway the group away from a chance that they could find Lin.
Why was he so reluctant to believe Kun’s information could lead them to Lin? Tenzin wanted more than anything to find Lin. But a part of him couldn’t believe she was really alive. He kept remembering that morning in her office, standing in front of her dead body. It was as if his mind couldn’t cope with the thought of Lin being alive because there was a risk that she would be dead when they found her.
“I agree with Tenzin.” Tenzin felt a small sense of pride when Izumi spoke. “We need to follow this lead with caution. It could easily be a trap.”
Mako held up a hand to get their attention. “While you all come up with a plan, I’m going to tell the department. Chief Roan will want to know.”
“You know they won’t have jurisdiction outside of Republic City. Kun said the Order was most likely holding Lin at a base in the mountains of the Earth Kingdom.”
Mako nodded tensely. “I know, but they will still want to know. I’ll be back soon.” He left quickly.
Korra, Asami, Su, and Kya already had their heads together, coming up with a plan. Izumi was watching Tenzin with concerned eyes and Tenzin barely noticed that Bumi had approached him. “I’m sorry we didn’t bring you with us. Kya got all serious and only invited Su. And Izumi followed us. I mean, I’m not sure why she didn’t tell you. Well…I guess I do. Because you wouldn’t have let us go after Kun…”
“Shut up, Bumi,” growled Tenzin. It was up to him to make sure no one got hurt trying to find Lin. He couldn’t handle going through all of this again. Tenzin needed Lin to be alive, but he needed everyone else to stay that way too. The people they were going up against had killed seven people; they had killed seven police officers. “Alright, listen. We need to proceed with caution. We will go find this compound, but we’re going to scout it out first. We’re not just going to jump in there and attack. They could have spirits helping them still.”
It didn’t take them long to come up with a plan that almost satisfied Tenzin’s paranoia. Tenzin, Jinora, Opal, and Korra would take Oogie to fly ahead and scout out the compound. A team of airbenders led by Bumi, Ikki, and Meelo would follow at a safe distance above a ground team that would consist of Kya, Su, Izumi, Mako, Bolin, and Asami. Izumi would have her personal guard with her. Wei, Wing, and Huan would be helping their mother lead some of Zaofu’s security team that accompanied the brothers when they came to Republic City.
Tenzin watched fondly as Korra and Asami whispered together in the corner. They were facing each other, hands clasped, as they reassured each other. Not too far away from them, Bolin and Opal were sharing an embrace. He tried not to look at his oldest daughter standing just a little too close to Kai.
Ikki was by his side in an instant, looking way too grown up in her wing suit. “Don’t worry, Dad. We’ve got this…I mean, it’s not like it’s our first rescue mission.”
Tenzin wished she would never grow up. Jinora was so serious sometimes and Meelo wasn’t serious at all. Rohan was still a cute little toddler. But Ikki was his little girl; she still saw the world unblemished even though she had seen terrible things in her short life. “I’ll be relying on you to keep an eye on your uncle.”
“Of course,” she saluted him and bounced off.
Pema replaced her with Rohan in tow. She stood on her tip toes to kiss his cheek. “Bring her home.”
To think that four short years ago his wife couldn’t stand his ex. Nor could Lin be in the same room as Pema. He had known that Lin had moved on from him decades ago, but Pema was the living reminder of what her life almost was: good or bad. And Lin was known to hold a grudge. But to his continued perplexment, Lin and Pema were almost friendly to each other now.
Tenzin gave Pema a kiss in return and walked over to Oogie. Before he could fly up to his seat on the bison’s head, Kya appeared from around the other side. Since her elation a couple of hours ago after returning from the Spirit World, Kya had mellowed out and now looked almost nervous.
“I…” She clenched and unclenched her fists. It was very rare that Kya didn’t have a quip or comeback for every situation. So, Tenzin let her have a moment to gather her thoughts. His older sister had always been so sure of everything in her life; or at least she had always appeared to. Rarely had she sought out his advice.
“Kya, we’ll find her,” he tried to reassure, but her unsteady nod made him doubt his own words for a moment.
“Do you think she’s still alive?” Her voice was raw with emotion, much like when Tenzin and Bumi had broke the news of Lin’s death to her only a few days ago. “What if they’ve already gotten the information they wanted from her and killed her? What if we’re too late? It’s been days, Tenzin…”
Tenzin reached out his arms to rest his hands on her shoulders. Looking her directly in the eyes, he spoke as confidently as possible. “If there’s one thing I know about Lin, it’s that she’s the most stubborn person on this earth. And that includes her mother. There’s a reason Zuko chose her to keep this secret; she’s great at keeping secrets. She’ll never give it up.”
“Lin gave up her bending instead of giving up the location of Korra, a girl she hardly knew at the time. And didn’t really like that much. Lin defined herself as a metal and earth bender and she made that sacrifice without a second thought. She’ll never give them what they want…but she’s no stranger to interrogation. She knows how to keep herself alive.”
His sister nodded stiffly and swallowed back the tears that were threatening to fall. “Thanks, little brother.” To his surprise, Kya stepped forward and wrapped her arms around his neck. Without a second thought, he returned the hug. Brother and sister, they held each other tightly.
“Mako!” Bolin called out from behind them and Tenzin reluctantly let go of Kya. Mako had been at the Police Station for over two hours. Soraya had gone with him, to convince the stand-in Chief that Lin could possibly still be alive.
Mako had returned with Soraya, but he had brought company. Close to two dozen people were walking in behind him. It took Tenzin a moment, but he recognized a few from the Police Department. None of them were in uniform and the few that were metalbenders had slim armor instead of their uniforms.
“What’s this?” asked Tenzin, nodding to the entourage.
“We’re helping you,” spoke a tall woman behind Mako and Soraya. She had a metal chest plate and matching spools of metal on her hips.
Tenzin appreciated the gesture, but the Police Department couldn’t get involved. “I’m sorry, but the Republic City Police can’t involve themselves in any altercation in the Earth Kingdom. It’s outside of your jurisdiction. I know that Lin would appreciate-”
“We resigned,” said a man dressed in fire nation red.
Tenzin blinked at his words. “You what?”
“We all resigned,” explained Mako. “That way we could help you without causing a political incident. The Republic City Police Department can’t go rescue the Chief from the Earth Kingdom, but every day civilians can.”
“You all resigned…”
“Chief would do the same for us,” said another officer, albeit, now an ex-officer.
Another piped up from the back, “Chief did do the same for us!”
The memory of Lin handing in her badge to go after her officers that Amon had captured surfaced in Tenzin’s mind. His throat felt thick with emotion as he stared at the group in front of him. They could use the help and they obviously wanted to help Lin, but, “Who is going to look over the City?”
“We drew a lottery to resign. Chief Roan wouldn’t let everyone quit, so we still have force here in the City, just in case,” replied Mako with a small smile. The young man had really thought of everything.
Very aware of everyone’s eyes on him, Tenzin cleared his throat and declared, “Then we better get going. The ground crew has almost an entire day’s journey ahead of them.”
Tenzin mounted Oogie and was joined shortly by Jinora, Opal, and Korra. With one last look at the crowd that had gathered to rescue Lin, he told Oogie, “Yip, yip.”
They flew hard for a few hours before stopping to give Oogie some rest and to eat the food that Pema had provided. There wasn’t much to talk about and for once, the three young women weren’t chattering constantly. He knew that they each saw Lin in a different way. For Jinora, she was a hero; to Opal, the aunt she thought she had lost; to Korra, a mentor. He was proud of each one of them and he knew that Lin was too.
After Oogie recovered, they flew for a few more hours before repeating the process, this time taking a bit longer to rest themselves. The next stop would be the Order’s compound and they needed to be alert when they got there. The girls often took turns guiding Oogie while Tenzin rested as well. They made a good team.
Morning was dawning when they found themselves over a break in a dense forest. A long, but shallow building covered the cleared area. They were up high enough that they could avoid being seen, Jinora and Opal created some cloud cover just in case. From what Tenzin could see, the building was locked up tight. There was very little activity outside of the concrete walls.
“I can see only three people posted on the doors,” reported Korra, as she looked through another invention of Asami’s that the girls kept calling a distance vizor.
“That’s good news,” replied Tenzin. “That means they aren’t expecting us. But I bet that building has several levels under the ground. There’s no way to estimate how many are inside.”
Jinora stretch and then pointed to the tree line to the south. “We should set down and wait for the others. They’re probably only an hour or two behind us.”
Tenzin turned Oogie to the trees and the bison found a branch that could support his weight. Now came the hard part: waiting. The girls took turns flying out on their gliders to search for the ground and air support that would be coming soon. Tenzin used Asami’s distance vizor to keep an eye on the compound. Lin was in there somewhere, he could feel it. He just hoped that she had faith that they were coming to rescue her.
“Just hold on a little bit longer, Lin.”
Chapter 14: Lin II
They had taken time to bind her hands and feet together before forcibly dragging her into a compound. Lin was more aware of what was going on around her, but bending or any excessive movement was still beyond her capabilities. She guessed that they had forgone the last injection so that she could be interrogated properly.
Her captors wasted no time bringing her to someone in charge. As she was dragged down hallways, she noticed that most of the occupants of the compound wore no uniform or standard dress. There was clothing typical of the Earth and Fire Kingdoms as well as the metropolis of Republic City. The walls were bare; no posters of propaganda or indications of a cultured society.
The room they brought her to could function as a throne room of sorts. More likely a meeting space. There was a dozen or so people waiting for her, but as soon as they entered, Lin knew who was in charge. A man with white hair and a long, braided beard stood in the center of the room. He was probably closer to Lin’s mother’s age than her own. He was covered in multicolored robes that would be out of style in any culture these days. He was making a statement that he didn’t belong to any nation.
Her guards forced Lin to her knees in the middle of the room. There was a light murmur of voices from the outskirts of the room. The bearded man approached her with a smile and light voice. “I apologize for how long it took to bring us together.”
“Can’t say I cared to much for the escort.” Speaking came with a rush of nausea and she swallowed away the thought. It was hard to keep kneeling when her body barely had the strength to hold itself up.
The man gave a chuckle and responded, “Bumpy ride? I’m sorry, but we had to get you out of the City. Didn’t want any prying eyes.”
“You’re wasting your time. You can ask your cronies, I’m in no mood to talk.”
“I knew you wouldn’t give in easily. That’s why we’ve gone to such lengths to get you out here. But no one else needs to die, Chief Beifong, not if you give us the information we seek.” His pleasant smile didn’t match his agenda, thought Lin. Then another thought struck her: no one else needs to die. The sick feeling returned, and she could feel the pain in her heart this time.
“No one else,” she rasped. Her officers…how many had died that night? She honestly hadn’t given much thought to any of them being dead. She had assumed the entire attack had been orchestrated to kidnap her. But her officers…she couldn’t bear to think of them dead in her place.
“I assume they’ll be having a grand funeral in the next few days. Such a tragedy…all those police officers. And the Chief of Police. Dead. No leads.” This time she did feel like the air had been taken from her lungs. They thought she was dead. There was no one looking for her. Oh, spirits, Kya thought she was dead. The man knelt down in front of her as she tried to process what he told her. “How about we start with introductions. You can call me The Architect.”
“Pass.” Lin brought her eyes up to look at him directly. If she was in this alone, she wasn’t going to play their games. Kya and Su and everyone else already thought she was dead. They weren’t going to have to mourn her twice.
“I heard you could be difficult. And that you had problems with authority.”
“Helps when you are the authority.”
Pain-in-her-ass, as she decided to call him because The Architect was a ridiculously stupid name, reached out to hold her shoulder. Lin gritted her teeth at the contact. He gave his dazzling smile and said, “I believe that if you would hear what we have to say, you may want to help us.”
“You’ve read up on me? Investigated my life?” asked Lin as she glared back at him.
“Of course,” he responded easily.
“Name one thing I’ve ever done that would make you think I would be helpful.”
Pain-in-her-ass let out a long sigh and stood up. He walked over to a few younger people and asked one of them for a baton that was hanging from around their waist. Lin took a deep breath and steeled herself for physical retaliation to her uncooperative responses. Pain-in-her-ass walked behind her and struck with more force than she had thought the old man had been capable of.
Dust and dirt gathered in her mouth as she fell face first into the floor. Lin’s upper back stung from the strike, but she pulled her lips into a gritty smile. Torture she could handle; physical pain, she could deal with. Kya already thought she was dead. This son of a bitch didn’t know who he was dealing with.
Strike after strike, Lin took the pain without sound. The drugs helped mute the lingering effects of the onslaught. At some point, someone else had taken over the abuse. Pain-in-her-ass finally knelt in front of her heaving and tired body. He rolled her onto her back so Lin was forced to stare up at him. This time, there was no eccentric smile. “You will tell me what I want to know. No one is coming to save you. We have the rest of your life.”
Lin spat at him and the blood in her mouth left a mark on his cloak. Something collided with her skull in response and she welcomed the black once again.
Lin woke to small room and three silent captors. She didn’t recognize them from her journey, so they must have already been at the compound. A waterbender had splashed cold water on her face to bring her round to consciousness. Then came the unpleasant feeling of the mash of liquid sustenance being forced down her throat.
Lin guessed that this was going to be the routine from now on. Torture, questions, force-feeding, and then drugs. A rough looking woman waited for another man to finish feeding her, she loaded a syringe with the serum keeping Lin docile. Lin closed her eyes, waiting for the injection. When it came, she let go of reality.
When she woke, she was met with the familiar prick of the syringe and then it was back to Pain-in-her-ass. This time, he didn’t even bother to ask any questions. Just started in with a baton in a ruthless attempt to wear her down. Lin didn’t bother to keep track of how long they tortured her for. It didn’t matter at this point.
When they brought her back, Lin could barely move. She was restrained to a table again. Her body ached from the position and the beating she had just received. Lin estimated that she had a few broken bones, but it would take further investigation to figure out just how bad the damage was. As her captors prepared to feed and drug her again, Lin took a few deep breathes, trying to connect to the earth for a minute or two before they drugged her again.
That’s when she felt the smallest hint of metal. Lin concentrated harder and finally found the source: the needle of the syringe. She almost smirked at their stupidity. The syringe they had used on the journey here had been some sort of synthetic or very pure metal alloy. This was the real deal. She couldn’t bend it from the three meters of space that separated the needle and her, but she had a feeling that when it contacted her skin, she would be able to.
Lin calculated that she had less than a minute to come up with a plan. If she closed the needle, the liquid would jam in the syringe and they would certainly notice she didn’t receive the injection. Using the needle to stab the woman administering the drugs wasn’t the best option either. There were two other people in the room and at least one of them was a water bender. However, the metal needle was her one shot of escaping this place.
The woman brought the needle closer, aiming for the neck. Lin closed her eyes and concentrated. The connection of metal to skin made her feel alive and in the milliseconds before the woman began the injection, Lin pulled at the metal just above her skin, creating a small hole. The liquid was clear and at this angle, the drug would slip down her neck unnoticed.
Slowing her breathing, Lin let her body go limp as it would have if the injection had worked. The woman and the others didn’t linger long. Lin laid as still as possible for several minutes to make sure no one would come back. Once she thought it was safe, she opened her eyes to assess the situation.
Step one would be to get out of the leather restraints. Step two would be figuring out how bad her injuries were. Step three would be exploring how hindered her bending was. Step one was proving to be much more difficult than Lin anticipated. Step two wasn’t looking great. And step one would be a lot easier if step three had better results.
It ended up taking an hour for her to loosen her restraints enough to slip her wrists out. After three attempts to sit up without the room spinning, she was able to unhook her feet as well. Lin swung her legs off the table and knew the moment her feet made contact with the ground, she had made a mistake. Her knees hit the ground next and she barely had the focus to stretch out her arms to catch herself from face planting.
“Get it together, Chief,” she grumbled to herself as she let the tremors of pain work themselves out of her body. On her hands and knees, she took several deep breaths. She had to do this. The only way to get back to Kya was to escape this mad house and she was on her own.
Her left knee was not cooperating. Every time she tried to push herself into a standing position, it gave out. Lin tried to use the table to pull herself up, but she couldn’t lift her arms above her head without getting dizzy from the pain. Broken collarbone, probably, in addition to a concussion and a few broken ribs.
Lin wasn’t sure how much time she had left. At some point they would be coming back to feed and inject her. Pain-in-her-ass may even make an appearance. She needed to get up. Closing her eyes, she tried to concentrate on the concrete beneath her. Her fingers dug into the hard surface, making small dents.
Not much, but something. Just like the needle, she could feel a connection. Another inhale, and with an exhale, she dug in deeper. Lin had never been a patient woman by nature, but over the years, she had learned that some things required patience, even if it was forced. So after a few deep breaths, she tried to move the concrete in the other direction.
After two tries, she had lifted the ground beneath her palms a few inches. Each time she reached out to the earth, she felt it respond a little stronger. Lin adjusted her weight to her right leg and as if doing a push up, launched herself into the air, the concrete under her hands following. Two narrow pillars stood on either side of her, but Lin was successfully standing on one leg.
The room wasn’t large, so the door wasn’t far away. It was wooden, but the latch was metal. For a group that supposedly had researched her, they hadn’t prepared for a metal bending prisoner very well. Maybe they thought the drugs would be enough to suppress her. Or had they expected her to give up the location of Neo so easily that they wouldn’t need to hold her for long.
Either way, Lin was capable of opening the door and possessed a small weapon once she dislodged the small piece of metal from the door. Now came the question of what waited for her on the other side of the door. Normally, she would use her seismic sense to map the area, but she only had one functional leg. However, she could probably get a feel for any guards that were just outside the door.
It took all her willpower not to scream in pain when she slammed her damaged leg into the ground, but Lin managed to send out a small wave. One guard stood outside her door. There was the risk that there were more people along the hallway, but at this point, Lin had nothing to lose. Silently, she moved the latch out of the lock position and the door started to open.
As a police officer, Lin chose to use nonlethal force as often as she could. But she knew she was in no position to fight the man on the other side of the door in hand to hand combat. So as the door opened, Lin pulled the metal latch out of the wood and imbedded it in the back of the guard’s neck. He fell with a thud and Lin stumbled out into the hallway, using the wall to keep herself from falling.
Maybe luck was on her side; the hallway was empty. This left Lin with two options: go left or right. She had been unconscious when they brought her to this room, so she didn’t have any idea where in the compound she was. Looking to her left, it appeared that the hallway she was currently in curved around the corner. At the end of a much longer distance to her right was a door.
The curve in the hallway indicated it led somewhere. The door was either an entry or exit to this part of the compound. The door was her best bet. The hallway probably led back to the main part of the compound including the main room she had been tortured in a couple of hours ago. The door was probably locked, which meant it let to somewhere she wasn’t supposed to go.
It took her five minutes to shuffle down the hallway to the door. Her breathing was labored and every muscle was burning when she finally reached it. Lin slowly moved the lock and pushed the door open. She found herself in another long hallway. Gritting her teeth, she cursed her luck. She had gone right the first time, so this time she went left. The further she got down the hallway, she could hear echoing noises and voices from up ahead.
Slowly pushing open another door, she found out where the sounds were coming from. Lin found herself in a garage of sorts. Equipment, vehicles, and weaponry lined the large area. Crates and boxes lined the walls not too far away and she scurried awkwardly to get behind them. Peering out of her hiding spot, she was relieved to see that no one had seemed to notice her.
“Hey!” Someone had seen her. Lin cursed internally and tried to steady herself for a fight. She wasn’t going to spend another day in this place. Whirling around she faced a slender young man who had raised his hands, fire beginning to spit from his fists. “The prisoner is escaping!”
Lin focused and pulled at the ground beneath a stack of crates behind him, distracting him enough to hobble away as he tried to avoid the falling debris. She didn’t get far before a stream of water slammed into her side, sending her tumbling onto the ground. Just in time, Lin blocked the next stream with earth from the ground beside her. Every part of her was screaming in pain, but the adrenaline of a fight was beginning to set in.
“She’s got nowhere to go!” snapped a woman. “She’ll tire out and then you can catch her.”
“Or we could have some fun,” laughed another man.
Pushing herself halfway to her feet, Lin propelled herself forward, stumbling toward the sunlight streaming in the other side of the garage. She managed to throw a few stones in the direction of the gathering crowd, but another earthbender began easily redirecting her aim. She felt around for metal in the room, calling a long slender piece of a shelf to her. The metal rod made walking easier and she skillfully, but painfully, dodged a few errant rocks.
A burst of fire stopped her in her tracks and momentarily distracted her from another waterbender. Lin hit the ground hard. She didn’t want to die like this. But then again, if Kya and Su already thought she was dead, maybe this was the only option. To die here, instead of giving them false hope of her survival, only to be killed later.
But if she died now, the Order would go after Izumi. Lin couldn’t let that happen. She had dedicated her life to protecting people; and now she dedicated it to protecting spirits. Spitting blood onto the ground beneath her, Lin pushed herself up once more. Either she would escape and be able to see Kya again, or she was going to keep fighting to buy Izumi more time.
She shoved the rod into the ground and sprang up. Her knee gave out and she wavered. But she blinked through the sweat and kept pushing forward. Lin didn’t even bother to attack the people around her now, she was completely defensive. But there were to many of them and by the time she reached the other end of the garage, she was completely surrounded.
“I see the White Lotus chose their protectors well.” It was that damn Pain-In-Her-Ass again. His voice made her nauseated. “There are no options left, Chief Beifong.”
Lin lost her balance trying to dodge another blast of fire and ended up on her back in the dirt. At least she could see the sun. The fresh air filled her lungs after the days spend in the compound. Breathing hard and trying not to cry out in pain at every heave of her lungs, Lin stared at the blue sky. A cloud moved through her line of sight.
Although, it was moving too quickly to be a cloud. Why was it moving to quickly? A red blur sped down from the cloud, joined soon by another. Two more red blurs fell towards her. As the red sped closer, Lin let out a manic laugh. The Order underestimated the levels that Kya, Su, and the rest of Lin’s family would go to get her back. Believe her dead? Never.
Lin was still laughing as Korra’s feet hit the ground in front of her.