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The Winter Soldier

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"'Sami!" Korra was just moments too late, and was forced to watch on helplessly as her best friend fell down into the white abyss. Blink of an eye, gone.

She was devastated. The rest of the mission passed in a blur. Yes, they were successful in capturing Aiwei, but this made it really hard for Korra to see why she was doing it. They were stopping the Red Lotus slowly, but at this rate, the war would never be over. They were missing something, something big.

Then everything seemed to happen at once. The final assault on the Red Lotus main base in the German Alps, the Valkyrie, plunging it into the ice...

Korra shot up in her bed, breathing heavily. Her alarm clock told her it was 5:30 am, and the first hint of sunlight was just creeping in through the gaps around the windows.

She sighed. It was that same dream still haunting her. Technically, it was 70 years ago, even though it felt closer to three for her, given all the time she spent frozen in the ice. But that damning image of Asami falling into the abyss would never leave her mind.

Resigning herself to the fact that there was no way she was going back to sleep now, Korra just got up and started preparing herself for her morning run. She cracked three eggs into a glass and knocked them back raw, that was going to have to be her fuel. As useful as many modern things were, for some, she really just preferred the old-fashioned ones.

Washington DC was calm at this time of day. Korra liked it a lot better than New York, which had become so much faster and busier in the time she spent in the ice that she barely even recognized it after waking up. But this was nice. She made for the Reflecting Pool, but with so little traffic, she could make it from her side of the Potomac all the way to the Washington Monument without having to stop for traffic once, which was a good thing, considering her enhancements meant she could basically outrun most normal cars.

She had slowed down to a regular jog when she spotted someone else, also making laps around the Pool, clearly here for the same purpose. Korra smiled to herself, knowing that she could have some fun with that person, so she sped up and quickly overtook him. "On your left."

The second time, the man was quite surprised at how fast Korra was catching him. "On your left."

"Got it, on my left."

The third time, Korra was smiling even more, and the man clearly wasn't having it. "Don't say it, don't you say it!"

"On your left!"

"Come on!" His response was loud, but when it had come out, Korra was so far ahead, she could barely hear it.

By the time the sun was fully up, Korra decided she had enough. She had lost sight of the man a few laps ago, but on closer inspection, it turned out he was just sitting propped up against a tree, breathing quite heavily. "Need a medic?"

He chuckled. "Just need to catch my breath. You just did 15 miles in 40 minutes."

"Yeah, if you don't count running here, but it wasn't busy anyway, it didn't take me very long." Korra took a quick glance at his clothing, and over the green shorts she saw a shirt with a small emblem of the Air Force. "What unit were you with?"

"58th Para Rescue, but I left and took at a job at the VA." The man held out his hand, by why Korra pulled him up. "Bolin Tashi."

"Korra Waters."

"Yeah, I kind of put that together." Korra tried not to let out a sigh, but coming back to life after being presumed dead for 70 years and having saved the world twice now, it does tend to make someone famous. "Must have been freaky, waking up after defrosting and everything?"

"Takes some getting used to. Nice to meet you, Bolin."

She started walking away, but Bolin stopped her. "It's your bed, isn't it? I'm used to hard beds, but over there, I slept on the ground, and if I was lucky, nothing poked me in the back. Now I'm home, and it's like..."

"Like lying on a marshmallow," Korra finished for him. "Feel like you're gonna sink right through." Bolin was clearly still working through some stuff too, and she felt the connection. "How long were you out there?"

"Did two tours. What about you, you miss the olden days?"

Korra shrugged. "Well, it's not so bad. I like the food, you've certainly gotten better with medicine, and internet is pretty neat. There are upsides, even if I am struggling to catch up."

Bolin smiled and took a moment to collect some thoughts. "The Who, 1969, Tommy. Their first rock opera, you can't miss that."

Out came the familiar notebook that Korra had just come to carry everywhere she went for when people advised her on pop-culture she had missed. The list had been steadily growing for a while now, and she didn't quite have the time to cross things off as fast as they appeared.

Just as she was putting her notebook away, a message from Kai popped up on her phone, telling her to meet her at the curb. "Well, Bolin, I gotta go. It was nice to meet you."

"Yeah. And if you want to come over to the VA, you're always welcome there. Plus, I'd score some major points with the cute girl working the front desk if I show up with Captain America."

Korra chuckled just as Kai's bright red Camaro pulled up to the curb. "Just ask her out. What's the worst that could happen?" She turned her attention to Kai. "Subtle."

"I'm giving you a lift and all you give me is sass?"

She grinned and looked back at Bolin. "Trust me, stay at the VA." With that, Kai took off with a loud roar to his engine.


-"Coming up on the Atlantian Star, which was taken over an hour and a half ago. 25 terrorists, all high-end mercenaries, led by this guy: Viper. 43 hostages, including one officer, Tarrlok Sadna, plus the unrestricted access to a mobile satellite launch platform," Tahno rattled off. "Here's hoping that they didn't bring any nukes."

Korra was paying attention, but was also working her gear. "Now why would Tarrlok be there personally?" That was completely rhetorical, and everyone ignored it. "Any demands?"

Tahno seemed utterly unimpressed as he read it. "Half a billion, they'll let the staff go, another billion, and they'll leave the ship undamaged. It's White Lotus, so they know they can ask whatever they want."

"And all they're getting is us. For that kind of money, I'm almost tempted to join them," Kai joked.

Korra sighed. "Don't make me leave you up here."

"Don't worry, I was kidding. Why do I have to be burdened with such an unbending sense of right and wrong?"

At this, Korra couldn't help but roll her eyes. "Your sense of right and wrong is more flexible than a rubber band. Alright, here's the plan: Tahno, you and the Strike team secure the hostages. Kai, you get down to the engine room and cut the power. I'll get up to the bridge, find Viper, and take out as many of the mercenaries as I can on the way."

Everyone agreed to this, so now it really was time to put on the last of their gear and for Korra to grab her trusty shield. It was old-fashioned, but she was very attached to it.

"So I heard you give that guy at the National Mall dating advice, how come you won't take mine?" Kai asked her.

"Because you have terrible taste in women," Korra smirked back. "Both for me and for yourself, so maybe try working on that first."

"That's sounds awfully defensive. What's stopping you from getting out there and dating someone?"

Korra's smile grew as she opened the hatch. "Lack of time!" she yelled as she jumped out, knowing that she probably scared the hell out of some first-timers by not wearing a parachute. Still, not doing that, her black uniform, matte-painted shield, and the dark water meant she would be as good as invisible.

Once she was down, she climbed up the anchor chain, and managed to already knock a few overboard before she got to her first group of three. They were quite heavily armed, but Korra had the element of surprise on her side, so she threw her shield at one of them, and used a flying punch of her elbow to knock down the second one. The third had just enough time to raise his weapon, but not to fire it, so instead, Korra kicked it aside before giving him a roundhouse to the chest, resulting in him going overboard as well.

Her shield had bounced back to her by now, and that was just in the nick of time, as the first one was coming around, and just before his hand hit the alarm switch, Korra threw the shield once more, quite possible breaking his arm before she rendered him unconscious too with a kick to the face.

Now it was a race to mid-deck, take out as many of those mercenaries there to clear the landing targets of the Strike team. Korra saw five, which would make things difficult, but not impossible if she did it right.

She decided to go in the same way as with the previous group: throw shield, knock out one, flying kick into the second one, sending him into the far railing. That left three, and she just had to catch her shield to block a punch coming on from one. Korra jumped up, stretching herself out and kick one while hitting the other with her shield, putting them both down for now.

A sixth was rushing in, but she threw the shield to knock him down, letting her have both hands free to suplex the fifth into permanent submission. One of the earlier ones was getting back up, but Korra was quicker: her shield had come back to her, and she used it to punch him in the chest, putting him down for the next few weeks.

"Erstar!" she suddenly heard being yelled behind her.

Korra slowly looked around, seeing another guy had joined the fray, but this one kept her at gunpoint. She did freeze like he told her to, but before he could do anything to restrain her, he was shot in the back of the head by Tahno, who was just coming in from the air by parachute. "Thanks."

"Yeah, I don't know how you ever won World War II without me."

Kai and the rest of the Strike team landed on the deck moments after, and he didn't really seem impressed by the half dozen bodies lying around. "Seriously, lack of time is your excuse?" he said, picking their conversation back up as if nothing had happened.

"Engine room first, dating life second."

"I can do both at once," he assured her while jumping over the railing down to a lower deck.

Korra made her way over to the bridge of the ship, where they thought Viper was. She had a small device with her that allowed her to shoot a microphone at the window that stuck and let her hear any conversation going on inside.

"Sie sind spät dran." one of the terrorists said. Thank God she picked up some German back in the day, that was doing her a lot of good now.

"Sie halten uns hin." That had to be Viper. "Bereite die Kameras und eine der Geiseln vor. Wollen wir mal sehen, ob sie zahlen, sobald sie wissen, dass wir nicht bluffen."

Korra knew their time was running out. "Tahno, come in."

"Ready to move."

"Kai, status on the engine room?"

Unbeknownst to Korra, he was just busy taking on three guys at once, and had just killed the last one by breaking his neck. "Engine room secure," he said, just a little bit winded.

"Tahno, whenever you're ready."

"In three... two... one..." Korra didn't have a view of the hostages, but she didn't hear anything over the radio, which was good. Extreme stealth was the key for the moment. The longer they could keep the terrorists in the dark on the whereabouts of the hostages, the easier their mission would be.

But now came the time to bring Viper the news, which was her task. She threw her shield through the window, shattering it, just barely missing Viper, knocking out the terrorist he was talking to and lodging it in the back wall. Unfortunately, by the time Korra had climbed in and retrieved her shield, Viper had legged it.

"Hostages secure, preparing to move them to the lifeboats for extraction. Captain, Kai isn't here, he's gone dark," Tahno called in.

Damn. "Kai, come in. Move to Tahno and secure the hostages." Nothing. "Kai!" The kick to Korra's side came out of nowhere, and it knocked her clean off her feet. Impressive. She looked up, only to see Viper moving towards her, trying to get in another kick, but she raised her shield to deflect the blow. Korra was definitely on the defensive for now, and she realized Viper's skill was considerable. She took a few good kicks and punches, trying to use her shield to catch as many of them as she could, but this guy was quick.

Finally, she did manage to catch him with a kick to the ribs, putting just a little bit of distance between them. This bought her just enough time to get up, and finally assume a good fighting stance, something Viper evidently realized, as he stopped. "Kannst mich wohl nicht ohne diese schicke Platte schlagen, was?"

Korra took a moment to assess him, and she knew stalling for just a moment would be good. It would buy Tahno the time he needed and give her the opportunity to take Viper alive. "Das werden wir noch sehen," she said while putting her shield on her back.

He moved again, but this time, she was ready. They traded blows and punches, but now Korra had the clear advantage. She was so much stronger than Viper was, meaning every punch she landed counted for five of his. Finally, she had him backed up all the way to a nearby door, and she decided to put him down once and for all with a flying elbow to the chest, breaking down the door and knocking out Viper.

"Well, this is unexpected," Kai said from the side.

Korra looked up, seeing him standing there over a computer. "What are you doing?" She threw a glance back to Viper, but he would stay out for long enough to get this done.

"Checking my email," he said, but the screen betrayed something different.

"This is all White Lotus intel," she quickly realized.

Kai nodded. "As much as I can get my hands on." The progress bar reached 100% and he pulled a USB drive from a port. "But it's quite enough. Now, we have an extraction point to reach."

Korra grabbed him by the arm to stop him. "I gave you an order for a good reason. Tahno needed your help."

"I had orders of my own."

"He was with the hostages, and you risked their lives for a few files."

"I think you're exaggerating." The words hadn't left his mouth or their attention was drawn to Viper by a faint rustle, where they realized too late that he had gotten up and threw a grenade their way. Korra was quick to react, using her shield to knock it into one of the offices, while Kai pulled her down behind the computer console, buying them just enough protection to save them from the blast. They were still showered in glass and soot though, and by the time Korra looked over the console, Viper was gone.

Kai sighed. "Okay, that's on me."

"Damn right it is."