Book 1: Revolutions (Philosoraptor/Phaz)

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by The Philosoraptor, Dec 21, 2014.

  1. Where were they? He had never seen anything quite like it. Of course, there were those big balloons that seemed to fly over the villages every other hour, but he'd never been inside one. In fact, he'd never imagined there would be an inside. But here... It was just so big! The inside alone was almost two entire houses, and he'd yet to examine the monstrosity in its entirety. But the machine itself wasn't the only marvel. Onboard lay a great beast, unlike any he had ever seen. It had six legs, yet did not seem to walk on them. Its tail lay flat on the floor (was it a floor? It floated like the rest of the machine) like the round head. The creature seemed to be asleep, and wasn't disturbed by his climbing all over its fur. This did seem to disturb the people around him, however.

    "Are you sure he's it?"

    "Am I ever wrong?"

    "Persistently."

    There was the nice lady, hair as black as rich soil and skin as white as clouds. Her eyes were soft, yet seemed to peer down into the depths of his soul, trying to find something that just didn't exist. Then there was the man dressed in the robes of the mean people trying to debate with the scary woman. About what, he could not know. He was too preoccupied tugging on the monster's horns.

    "Come on, Asami! I spent six months with the Dai Li. Do you know what that takes?" The man started pacing back and forth across the floor. "Five months of earning their trust, and then only one to go over all the intel they'd gathered across the Earth Kingdom. Kuvira might have cut them off at the waist in regards to intelligence gathering, but they still have connections. And he's the one at the center of all the reports of multi-bending."

    "Do you actually have evidence that he can, Bolin?" This stopped the pacing. Another yell came from deeper in the machine, a harder voice. "Well? Are we good? We have tanks coming up behind us."

    Both of the people in the room (Asami and Bolin? Were those their names?) muttered curses. "Kuvira."

    Another lady sprinted down from the top of the balloon (what was on the top? He'd heard noises, but couldn't figure out what was what) and shouted "They're shooting!" A second later the balloon was rocked by explosions on both sides. The rest was mostly a blur of sound and light. The child heard someone shouting "We're going down!" There were screams as people were tossed back and forth while the balloon rocked and some of the glass windows crashed inwards. The beast roared and rose into the air, tossing the boy to the side. His head crashed into the wall of the room. The last thing he saw was a woman in obscenely warm clothing walking towards him.



    "Jinora, take us up!"

    "Too much weight!" Suddenly, the floor righted itself. The three in the room brought themselves to their feet. "Thanks for that." Jinora looked at Bolin. "I didn't do that." All three turned their gazes towards the figure in the corner. "Korra...?" The body of the former Avatar disappeared as soon as it was there, replaced with a four year-old boy, eyes glowing as his hands rose above him. The booms fell away into the distance as the wind whistled past the ship. "Mako, how're we doing?"

    It took a second for the pilot to respond. "Engines are damaged, hull's taken a beating. That's just the obvious stuff. I can't tell you how we're moving, especially at this speed."

    "I think I can." Asami turned to Bolin. "Go figure out how far we can go with what we have. We cannot land in the Earth Kingdom."
    "On it, boss!" He rushed off to the cockpit. Asami turned to Jinora. "Can you, Ikki, and Meelo take over? I don't know how long he can keep this up." The only response was a nod as Jinora ran back up to the top of the airship. After both of them were gone, she sat down next to the concentrated child, who completely disregarded her arrival. "Can you hear me?" No reaction. "Korra?" No reaction. "Hmm... I'm sorry for this." She swept the boy's legs out from underneath him, hoping that it wouldn't prompt a hostile reflex from the Avatar. Instead, it served to awaken the boy, who quickly fell back into a deeper sleep.


    Several hours later...


    He awoke with a start, sitting up straight in his bed. My bed? I don't have a bed. Where was he? It was yet another strange place, yet this one didn't seem to fly. But the older boy next to him was. He jolted out of bed, rushing to the door, only to get blocked by the girl Jinora. "Rohan! You scared him!"

    "Sorry! I'm just so excited!" The boy named Rohan rushed over, and it became obvious to the youth to see how he flew. Rohan sat, perfectly balanced, on a circulating ball of air, visible only because of the disturbances of dust on the floor. "So you're him! Asami and Jinora keep saying you're him! Please say you're him!" The girl kicked open the door and ushered her brother out with a blast of air. "I should never have let you stay in here in the first place. If you aren't going to calm down, wait outside!" She barely managed to keep him out before both were quieted by the appearance of the woman Asami and a new man that the youth didn't recognize. "Is he awake?"

    "If he hasn't been scared to death yet, yes." Before the two could step into the room, she blocked their path. "Is now really the best time? He's just a kid."

    "Better now than he figures it out when it's too late." Brushing past Jinora (who muttered "Too late? What is this, one of Varrick's films?"), Mako moved to the far end of the room while Asami knelt in front of the boy. "Hey little guy. How are you doing?" Unwilling to interact, he buried his head in his knees. The coaxing went on for a few minutes before Mako lost his patience.

    "Look you brat. We just broke into enemy territory, caused an international incident, and risked our lives on a hunch. A hunch that you were the Avatar, that you were the reincarnation of our friend. The least you could do is cooperate a little bit!"

    Frightened by this sudden outburst, the boy seemed to shrink in on himself. Asami shot a look at her companion before turning back to the boy.

    "Come on. Don't you want to come outside? I swear he doesn't have to come if you don't want him to." It didn't work. "We have food. Are you hungry?"

    This seemed to resonate deep in the child, whose head jolted up. "Food?" Excited by her success, Asami prodded deeper.

    "Yes. We have plenty of food. It's actually just down the hall. You want some?" Nodding his head, Asami extended her hand. Though hesitant, he accepted the invitation. Together, they started to the kitchen (followed closely by the others, Rohan desperately trying to get the boy's attention).

    "If you don't mind me asking, do you have a name? It would make it easier to talk with you." Looking up at her, the boy felt that he trusted her enough, she who offered him food, to care for his only valuable possession. "Shen. My name is Shen."


    Years later...


    He still couldn't fly. And that pissed him off. How is it that one of the greatest benders alive can't fly? Shen had managed to learn the air scooter technique pretty quickly (he'd insisted on staying with the airbenders first. His little four year-old brain labeled them as the nicer people, second only to the food lady. He'd gone to Bolin next and learned that the two of them shared a lot of traits in common, enjoying pranking Mako and pretty much everyone else. And finally, he'd gone to Mako. It had taken a few years, but the firebender had warmed to Shen and soon became a close confidant and friend) and after reading of Avatar Aang's battle with Fire Lord Ozai started working on the air sphere. But he had yet to learn self-sustained flight, a goal placed when he found that air spheres, while effective, were clunky and weren't as smooth as flight was rumored to be. "Maybe it isn't worth it, Shen. I heard from Ikki that you're really vulnerable to air movements if you fly unprotected." Shen climbed up the rock overlooking the sea, panting from the effort. Rohan was levitating off the ground in front of him, eyes closed.

    "Quiet, baldie. I have to concentrate." Calming his breathing, Shen concentrated on the goal: Fly. Taking a running start, he leapt off the rock. Only to start plummeting to the ground a few meters below. Come on, come on! The ground kept getting closer. Finally giving up, Shen erected an air sphere around himself, halting his fall just inches shy of the water. Regaining his composure, he rose back up to the cliff edge. Rohan's eyes opened and his mouth widened into a grin. "Any luck, Guru?" Shen's glare answered the question. Rohan fell to the dirt laughing. "Hey, at least I didn't hit the water this time."

    Bringing himself back to his feet, Rohan made a conceding gesture. "True, true. Not a drop of water on you. Your reflexes are getting better." He tossed Shen a canteen, with which Shen drowned his mid-length black hair in water. "You excited about the field trip?"

    "Can hardly call it a field trip. I get to go back as much as I want if it goes smoothly." Dropping the canteen to the ground, he collapsed on a rock, taking in the light of the sun. "But yeah. I'm pumped." His response was halfhearted. Mostly because Shen was exhausted from the number of times he'd run, jumped, and climbed back up the cliff. His legs were getting chafed. But there was a small part of him that just wasn't too enthusiastic about this little adventure. Why now? Twelve years he'd been on Air Temple Island. Twelve years, and only today would he get to go to the mainland. What was the point? Shen had heard Asami and Mako's warnings of how Republic City wasn't all it was cracked up to be, what with the Triad, underground bending matches, and the general disturbances being caused by Earth Kingdom royalists and revolutionaries. But still. Better than being surrounded by monks all day. So why had they never let him leave before? It was just strange. Come on, Shen. Keep it together. First time in your life that you get to leave this island. Don't mess it up. But it wasn't enough to dispel the thoughts in the back of his head. "Go on inside, Rohan. I'll be right behind you."

    "Be careful. You might be able to levitate, but you still aren't getting the whole inner peace side of airbending. You lack focus." Shen ignored him and got up off the rock. "Or don't listen. Whatever." Taking another running start, Shen felt the flow of air around him. And instead of plummeting to his death when he jumped, he rapidly rose into the air, the sphere around him causing his body to levitate. Already Shen was able to maneuver in it fairly well and spun up and up, so high that any child would have expected him to knock the sun from its perch. And from there, he had a view of everything as far as the eye could see. But specifically, he gazed down upon the buildings and soaring skyscrapers that had begun construction throughout the winding streets of Republic City. This was the only place he had where he could view it perfectly. Shen had been forbidden to actually set foot on the mainland by Jinora, and had followed her commands out of respect for her and the monks present on the island. But the view wasn't the only reason he flew up there. It was for the sheer show of power, the ability to use his power that got the adrenaline pumping. Shen was the Avatar. "And it feels good."
     
  2. (Phaz)
    Sunlight filtered in from the canopy of aged vines and branches overhead, doing little to illuminate the dim gloom in the small clearing amid massive tree trunks and untamed undergrowth. Beneath thickly tangled roots could be seen traces of old stone buildings and structures, only the sturdiest of which still remained standing rather than lying in heaps of rubble and debris. It looked for all the world like part of some ancient jungle ruin long forgotten by humanity, but in reality it was something much stranger and more wonderful. Although no one would have suspected it from the surroundings, this place was actually nestled within the heart of the bustling metropolis of Republic City.

    The Spirit Wilds hosted all sorts of strange creatures, most of them not from the physical world. It was true that human residents of the city sometimes ventured in to experience the novelty of a place so full of natural wonder and otherworldly beings, but very few stayed for very long, and fewer still called this place home. That was precisely the reason one human in particular was making his way into the clearing at that exact moment.

    The young man hoisted himself over a massive root that blocked his path, scaling it with ease and landing with both feet on the other side. He paused to wipe the sweat from his brow with his forearm, brushing aside the locks of thick, dark hair that hung down limply over his eyes. Despite the lack of sun, the Spirit Wilds were warm and humid due to the dense foliage. It also did not help that he was dressed much too warmly for this climate, his clothes made of heavy skins and lined with fur. He removed the thick overcoat he had been wearing and put it inside the knapsack he was carrying slung over his shoulder, leaving his upper body clad only in a tight-fitting undershirt whose cut-off sleeves revealed the bronze skin of his well-toned arms. He proceeded on his path through the clearing, reaching its far end and pushing aside a screen of hanging vines to discover what lay before him.

    On the other side of the clearing was a sort of cave created by the collapse of what looked to have once been a large inner courtyard or lobby to an even larger building. The crumbled facade of the entrance had given way under a steady trickle of water from higher above which now collected in the spaces in between the building's weathered remnants to form a series of pools and cascades. At the bottom was a shallow reservoir of water that filled most of the space, ringed by a thin strip of level ground dotted with short, squatty bushes. The whole scene had an air of tranquility and solace. Barely a sound could be heard besides the quiet trickling of the water. He decided it was a good place to stop and rest for the time being, and so he began to set up camp.

    As he busied himself with unpacking his knapsack, he heard a rustling from the bushes on the far side of the pool. The back of his neck bristled and his pale blue eyes widened in surprise. With a chop of his arm he pulled a tendril of water from the pool behind him which arced over his head before solidifying into a sharp javelin of ice that flew across the cave and plunged into the bushes.

    A gaggle of leafy limbed spirit creatures erupted from the bushes and took flight, chittering in panic. After a brief moment of standing there in silence he chuckled to himself and went back to unpacking his things. Yes, this place would do nicely.
     
  3. Let's see... Oh! Fish. And... Another fish. And let's not forget the wonder of water! "Entertain yourself", they'd said. "It's not that long of a ride", they'd said. Well you know what? The wonderful mysteries of the ocean got boring after the first minute. Especially considering that the whole ride was roughly fifteen minutes because the monks replaced all the speed boats with rowboats. Why? Too much of a connection to the outside world when they were meditating and attempting to achieve inner peace. People could arrive at Air Temple Island via cruise ship or speed boat, but any errands by the monks would have to be carried out using primitive technology.

    "The rowing and repetition helps calm your mind," Jinora had repeatedly told him. And yet it wasn't Shen rowing. Instead, his supervisor was rowing. Rohan had decided not to come ("I've got meditating to do") and Jinora was anchored to the temple. Instead, Ikki and Meelo were watching over Shen while he was in Republic City. Meelo was rowing, and Ikki was leaning on her elbows looking thoroughly tired. "Ugh! This is so boring. Can't we just bend our way there?"

    Meelo glanced up, the strain on his face from the rowing evident. "No -Unh- Way... Jin said Shen should learn not to rely on his bending."

    "But Mako and Asami are waiting! We need to get there faster!"

    "Just... Waiting... For a less rough... Stretch of water." He let go of the oars and slumped backwards. "So much work..."

    "Hmph. It can't be that bad. Let me try." She pushed her brother backwards and took hold of the oars. "Ugh. It is kind of hard to move these..." She practically leapt out of her seat when the boat jerked forward. "HEY! Huh?" Ikki noticed the boat was moving significantly faster than before. She started laughing hysterically. "See? All it needs is a woman's touch."

    Meanwhile, unseen thanks to their bickering, Shen was quietly bending a strong breeze to force the boat to a greater speed. I don't get it, really. What's so wrong with using my bending? I think I heard a saying once from Bolin. "Use it or lose it." Might as well, right? It took only a minute or two to reach the mainland at that velocity. Upon arrival, Shen tied the boat to a nearby post. A steamship crawled into the space next to them, almost squashing the puny rowboat.

    "Hey! Watch where you're driving!" The steamship pilot yelled a profanity at her, but it was lost in the roar of the other ships.

    It was a very brief walk for Shen, though Meelo and Ikki had trouble getting their sea legs back. He wasn't sure why he was able to walk about so quickly, though he had an inkling that flying in an airship twelve years prior had something to do with it. If you can fly, you can swim. And yet the secrets of waterbending eluded him. Two figures stood in front of an automobile emblazoned with the familiar Future Industries logo. "Aunt Asami! Uncle Mako!" Shen kicked off the ground and blasted forward on a gust of wind. He slowed to a stop caught the two in a bear hug. "Shen. If you don't - argh - let go, I'm going to burn you." He quickly released the two. Rubbing his neck, Mako let out a chuckle. "You're getting strong, runt. And I just keep getting older." It wasn't a complete lie. The chief of police's hair was graying and his eyes were baggy. The stress of the job was getting to him. On the other hand, Asami didn't look like she had aged a day. Maybe the laugh lines around her mouth were getting more prominent, and her eyes didn't shine with the same purpose as they did some years ago, but otherwise she was the same woman who had dragged Shen from his war-torn home into a new life. She flashed him a smile. "How have you been doing, Shen? Jinora is treating you okay?" Ikki arrived, with Meelo in tow.

    "Oh, yes. If she didn't, she'd have to deal with you." The two women quickly engaged in conversation, mainly about the years since the airbending family had last visited Republic City. Mako greeted Meelo, who asked "So. What do we have scheduled for Shen?"

    Mako gave him a quizzical look. "Scheduled? What do you mean?"

    Meelo seemed to deflate a bit. "You mean you intended for the Avatar to simply wander around Republic City? Alone?"

    "Pretty much, yeah. I might show him around the police station, warn him about where not to go. I know for certain Bolin wants to see him." He turned to Shen. "You'll probably find him at the pro-bending arena. He's there from dawn to dusk training the new Fire Ferrets."

    Mako and Bolin's old team? Hm. Didn't know that Bolin had kept on with that. Something let out a beeping sound on Mako's person. He reached to his belt and pulled out a strange device, which began spouting out words. Is that...? A radio? Oh, nice! Never seen one before. The words stopped coming out of the device. "Sorry, Shen. Duty calls." He glanced at Asami. "Can you take over for me?"

    "Oh, I'd love to. But I have to show Ikki that new shipment of wingsuits."

    "Alright. Uh... You know what? Just take the car. I can manage. And Asami has so many of them hidden up her sleeve I'd be surprised if she got stranded here." He knocked on the window and whispered something to the driver. "Just tell him where you want to go." Shen got into the car, but Mako reached out a hand to stop Meelo. "You know what, Meelo? I could use a hand dealing with this situation. Don't get a lot of police these days who can peacefully quell a riot." Clearly uncomfortable with leaving Shen alone, but unwilling to outright say no to Mako, Meelo walked off with him. Riot, huh? And I don't get any of the fun? No way. The inside of the car was quite comfortable. Plenty of leg room, leather seats, and someone to drive for him.

    "Where to, sir?"

    Sir? What am I, a king?

    "What was Mako talking about?"

    "Master Mako spoke of the civil unrest currently occurring in front of the City Hall." Civil Unrest? Sounds fun.

    "Then we know where we're going. To City Hall!" The car didn't move. "Please?" It shot off down the road away from the port.
     
  4. (Phaz)
    The young waterbender filled a skin with water as he knelt by the side of the pool. Once it was full he turned it upwards to let some of its contents drain into his open mouth, drinking deeply before capping the skin and walking back to where he had camped the night before. His few belongings were already packed in a large sack, which he slung over his shoulder before proceeding to leave the campsite behind. He had slept well the night before and now felt rested and ready to continue on his journey, although it was a sense of uneasiness more than anything else that now compelled him to move on.

    Climbing a twisted tangle of thick vines that lead up and over a leaning section of a high wall, the waterbender crawled through a small opening at the top and dropped down into a narrow tunnel. Although there was barely enough room to maneuver in the cramped, dark space, he eventually made his way out by crawling on his knees and elbows. The other end of the tunnel emerged at the foot of an immense shrouded in vegetation whose shadow covered a swathe of the jungle that stretched out in front of it.

    Rising to his feet, the waterbender continued to make his way through the wilds, but as he rounded the side of a tree trunk a sudden noise caused him to fall back and hide. From nearby he could hear a loud bang followed by the sound of metal grinding on metal. It was followed by agitated voices that seemed to be arguing.

    Peeking cautiously around the tree trunk, the waterbender watched as a large humanoid tank lurched out of the trees before skidding to a halt on the huge treads that were its feet. The tank stalled and shuddered, emitting another terrible metallic shriek. A pair of individuals wearing dark green fatigues appeared from behind the giant machine, their faces covered with cowls bearing a red circle. Another emerged from the glass-domed cockpit of the mecha tank and leapt gracefully down to the ground.

    "What's the problem? I thought you said you knew how to operate this thing," one of the masked men barked angrily at the one who had been inside the tank.

    "I do. It's not my fault this thing is a rusted old piece of junk that's been sitting in the Spirit Wilds for twenty years." The tank driver gestured up at the machine, which indeed appeared to be in a state of disrepair and still bore pieces of decaying vines over much of its hull.

    "Well get back up there and get it working! We've got to rendezvous with the others at the old station before tomorrow."

    The driver grumbled under his breath before climbing back up to the cockpit and closing the canopy. His companions waited as he started the mecha tank once again and drove it forward a few feet through the jungle. Suddenly, the machine stopped and began sputtering and whirring, its limbs and torso twisting and turning wildly. Then it leapt forward and swerved to the side. careening directly toward the tree where the waterbender was hiding. He quickly leapt out from behind the tree trunk, barely avoiding the mecha tank as it crashed into the tree. There was a large crack as the tree snapped in the middle and its top half slowly began to fall to the earth. It finally came to rest on the mecha tank, which had turned over on its side as a steady cloud of smoke poured from under its hull.

    The waterbender was sprawled in the dirt, and was barely able to make it to his feet before the two masked men who had also dodged to avoid the mecha tank noticed him. "Hey! What were you doing there?" one of them questioned the waterbender. Both of them assumed defensive stances and the one that had spoken to the driver before removed a pair of bolas from his belt. He spun them at his side, poised to hurl them at the young waterbender.

    "No one can know what we're doing here. Take him down before he can get away."

    He let the bolas fly, but the waterbender quickly sliced them in half with a razor sharp stream of water he drew from the waterskin at his waist. The weighted ends of the bolas fell harmlessly to both sides and the waterbender redirected the water back into the skin with a fluid weaving motion of his arms. His two masked opponents seemed to stand there in shock for a moment, but then both of them darted forward, circling to flank him from both sides.

    He pivoted to face the one who had thrown the bolas first, sending a blast of water in his direction in hopes of knocking him off course before he got too close. His assailant managed to dodge the attack, however, dipping under the volley of water as he continued to race towards the bender. His partner lunged at the waterbender from behind with a flying kick only to be met with a faceful of ice as the bender slammed a frozen-sheathed fist squarely into his chin with a backward strike. The stunned attacker fell back, but the waterbender had no time to recover his bearings as his other opponent came in close and directed a flurry of blows at his chest and abdomen. The waterbender managed to evade all but the last of them, which punched into his stomach with enough force to force the air from his lungs.

    Groaning in pain, he lashed back with a swipe that sent a sheet of water sweeping under his foe's feet which almost instantly solidified into ice. The man slipped and fell back as he lost his footing, allowing the waterbender to release a wave of water that pushed his opponent even further away. Sensing that the other combatant had recovered and was drawing close again, the bender turned to face him only to feel a series of precise and forceful jabs being delivered to his back. Immediately he lost feeling in his arms, which fell hanging limply at his sides. Another blow found its way to the back of his knee and he sank to the ground, slumping over helplessly as he lost the ability to stand.

    A shadow crossed his field of vision as the third masked man who had been driving the mecha tank somersaulted overhead before landing in front him. The waterbender cursed himself silently for having forgotten about the driver, who during the time he had been fighting the other two had been able to escape the tank and join the fight unseen.

    "A waterbender, eh?" he heard the third opponent say as he stood over him gloating. "How does it feel to be chi-blocked? Not great, I'm betting."

    The other two opponents now joined the third, all of them looming over the defeated waterbender. "He gave us a pretty good fight. We'll have to be careful handling this one," one of them said. The other stooped closer to the bender, crouching next to him before backhanding him hard across the side of his head.

    Darkness filled the waterbender's vision, and the voices of the Equalists faded away as he slipped into unconsciousness.
     
  5. The car had proven useless. Who could have needed such a noisy and confining creation in this place of beauty? Obviously it wasn't the same beauty that Shen had known for much of his life. The roar of automobiles, the angry and welcoming shouts of street vendors, the whine of construction equipment. All of it so foreign, so new. And the sights. Aerial views were beautiful, but details could never be seen from the sky. Shen visited almost every vendor, sampling whatever he could before he ran out of the yuans Jinora had given him, but soon realized that he would probably miss all the fun at City Hall if he waited around too long. He noticed the train that shot around overhead and boarded it when it stopped at his location. It proved a much more efficient method of sightseeing, as well as faster than walking.

    The skyscrapers proved to be even more impressive up close, towering overhead while Shen zipped by in a metal tube. Airships floated slowly above them, watching for any Triad activity. It unnerved Shen to see so many eyes in the sky, and the idea of them watching and knowing the movements of everyone angered him. Who were they to watch the population like that? And soon he had his answer. As the train sped through the Dragon Flats borough, he noticed a small-looking man in an apron talking to three others. There was no sound from inside the train, but Shen understood what was happening as soon as the leader flashed a bit of cheap firebending in the shopkeeper's face. Clearly terrified, the owner pulled a bag out from behind him and handed it to the others. A quick look inside and they were off. Shen had to crane his neck to continue watching, but was only able to catch a glimpse of the shards of glass as a barrage of rocks rained through the front windows. Where are the police when you actually need them watching? He kept telling himself that when he revealed himself to the public, things would change.


    Shen only a had a few minutes to think on the matter before the train came to a jolting stop. Several people got up and started yelling, demanding to know why they had stopped. And it only took a little while for the younger children to look out the windows and start crying. Intrigued by the reactions, Shen started out the exit. Before a stray cable shot past him, just inches from his nose. While his mouth was unable to speak, his mind was screaming.

    BythespiritsbythespiritsbythespiritsIalmostdiedwheredidthatcomefromwhyamIstillstandinghere?! He snapped out of it right as a brick was propelled in his direction. Before he even thought of protecting himself, he bent a wall of air in front of him, smashing the brick before it got too close. Ignoring the awed gasps from inside the train, Shen propelled himself off the elevated tracks and formed the air sphere around him to divert any other stray projectiles. With a bird's-eye view, Shen could understand just why the train stopped. For one, the tracks ahead had been disassembled. With a piece of concrete ripped from a nearby building. And for two, a battle was being waged beneath them. Maybe not one of the historical struggles that curdle the blood. It was only a riot. But it was the first one Shen had ever seen. How could people act this way? From the sky, he could see a number of different colors involved in the mix. Just from the few times he had seen Mako in uniform, there were a number of police in the fray, most metalbenders. And at the core of the fighting was the man himself, blasting the violent protesters with brief shocks of lightning. From the swaths of people forced back by a seemingly invisible force, Meelo was providing cover for Mako's blind spots. However, it didn't seem to be just police versus rioters. A number of the rioters attacked each other. Upon closer inspection, the traditional Earth Kingdom clothes were only distinguishable by an insignia emblazoned on the front of their tunics, and even they were similar. One was the square set in a circle, a trademark of the old Earth Kingdom. The other too had the symbol, though it was further inscribed into a cross inside of double octagons. This one was unfamiliar, though Shen assumed it was that of the "Earth Empire" and the Revolutionaries. Determined to stop the fighting, he sent the orb spiraling downwards, his landing sending a shockwave of air through a particularly dense crowd of dueling rioters. Acting purely on instinct at that moment, he started putting everything the Airbenders had taught him to good use. Firebending and earthbending were too lethal, too harmful. Airbending was aggressive, but generally did not cause anything fatal. Shen's movements were fluid, having become routine after years of practice. Many if not most of the people present were benders, and they earned the brunt of Shen's more violent attacks. While Jinora had preached pacifism, Rohan had taught Shen how to bend offensively. His air blasts blew apart earth walls, his air blades cut through stone with ease, and his vortexes sent his enemies flying into the air. The nonbenders, who did no more than throw rocks at him or attempt to strike with a stick, were dealt with using smaller swipes to knock them into walls. Eventually, the fighting was focused in three crowds: The one fighting the main police force, the one fighting Mako and Meelo, and the one fighting Shen. The latter two eventually combined, and Shen literally bumped into Mako mid-blast. The two turned on each other, Mako sending forth a burst of lightning, Shen raising a pillar of earth to absorb it. The two were prepared to continue, but Mako came to his senses before he could let loose again.

    "Shen? What are you doing here?" His voice was layered with a number of emotions, from surprise to anger, to even joy at seeing his pupil. "What happened to the car?"

    "Left it a few blocks back. Decided to see what was going on. Ended up saving you." Shen pointed out the swaths of people he had managed to take down, any of whom could have swarmed Mako.

    "You shouldn't be here! This is escalating far beyond our control!" As he finished his sentence, a massive boulder crashed between the two, sending the two flying apart. "NO! Shen!" Mako shot off into the air, propelled by a burst of fire, launching himself towards the earthbender responsible.

    Shen struggled to his feet, clutching his chest. Nothing seemed to have broken the skin, but his ribs ached and caused a flash of agony when he touched them. Oblivious to the fighting around him, he stumbled off towards an alley. He collapsed at the entrance and inspected his searing legs to find that one was broken, the other heavily bruised. Unable to walk, he hoped to wait out the battle. This plan was shattered as a pair of earthbenders were thrown his way, their attackers following quickly enough. Wounded as he was, Shen still stood up, his leg screaming for rest, ready for combat. You know what? When I get home, I'm staying there. Have a nice bowl of soup, take a bath. Maybe try my skills and play that acolyte Hange in one of his card games. His leg shuddered, almost collapsing under the weight of his body. Who am I kidding? I'm not getting out of this. First time in Republic City, first time fighting anyone and I get beaten by a rock. A rock! As the shadows of the benders rounded the corner, a hand grabbed Shen by the shoulder, pulling him through a door. He spun around to face this new attacker, only to find a wizened old man, his beard stretching down to his waist.

    "No time, boy. We have to go, now!" Unsure of what was going on and unwilling to go back outside, Shen accepted the old man's offer for support and hobbled along with him. They exited the building he had been dragged into (An... Antiques store?) out the backdoor, which in turn opened up onto an abandoned road. The fighting remained contained in the square in front of City Hall, though most people were too afraid to even look out their windows for fear of stray projectiles. Upon closer inspection, the man was clearly a naturalized citizen of the Republic. He wore the generic attire of Republic City, though there seemed to be some hints of Water Tribe in his uniform (fur lining around the collar, for example, as well as a navy blue overcoat).

    "Where...?"

    "No time, no time! We must get you somewhere safe!" As they hurried through the streets, the urban soon became the wild. What few buildings remained intact were covered in vines and were now inhabited by animals of all sorts. However, they were nothing like any animals Shen had ever seen. Many walked on their hind legs like men and women, and others were irregularly sized or shaped, like massive frogs or trees with fanged mouths.

    "Spirits..." The all turned to look as he passed through, some in awe, perhaps recognizing who he was, and others with disdain, thinking him to be just another human invading the wilds. Over time, the spirits disappeared, replaced with a shocking silence. This too was soon drowned out by the sounds of men and women arguing, as well as the crackle of a fire. The two rounded a large tree trunk and came upon a campsite. Shen was lowered and leaned up against a gargantuan tree.

    "Thank you. I... Don't know how to repay yo-" His sentence was cut short when the old man backhanded him.

    "Quiet, scum!" It was then that Shen began to see his surroundings. There was a fire, and there were people. But around the fire stood watchful mecha tanks, inactive but as scary as when they were online. The men and women were dressed in black uniforms, most wearing masks to hide their faces. Some were equipped with technology Shen had never seen before, while others were more relaxed, sitting around the fire and talking to one another. The arguing came from two who seemed to be the leaders.

    "Why didn't you kill him when you had the chance, Rin?"

    "We've got wounded, Shaw. We shouldn't have tried the raid on the compound yesterday. Now we have a waterbender, and I bet you he's a healer."

    "How do you know he's not a bloodbender? How do you know we don't have another Yakone tied up around our artillery?" Shen looked to where she was gesturing and saw a young man, around his own age, tied around the leg of a tank.

    "If he was a bloodbender, he'd have used it on us when we fought him. Trust me, we need this guy!" He was silenced by a kick to the chest. The one he was talking to started yelling down at his face.

    "When did you become a bender-loving piece of crap, Rin? We don't need his kind! What we need are more soldiers! More regular people ready to fight for what's right! Not more of him!" A barely audible apology was heard uttered from beneath the heel of the other one's (Shaw?) boot, which lifted back up off of Rin's throat.

    "You're right, Shaw. As usual. But facts are facts. We can't get moving until the others are healed up. I thought you were one to exploit an opportunity when you saw it?" Shaw turned away from him and paced across the clearing for a minute or so before turning back to him.

    "Fine! Take the prisoner to our wounded, make him use his bending. If he won't, start taking fingers until he will." At this point, Shaw removed the mask they were wearing, revealing the face of a woman. Her black hair was cut short, and her eye was white and milky from some wound she had received in the past. A scar trailed down her face from the top of her forehead to the underside of her chin, marking her otherwise clean and comely face. But the one good eye was a steely blue, burning with a passionate hate when she spotted Shen. "And what the hell is this?"

    The old man stepped forward, cowing before Shaw's glare. "A... Pleasure to see you too, madam. I've simply been doing my job, as per your instructions."

    "I told you to bring any distinguished or unique benders to us for our demonstration. Who is this?"

    "I... I don't know who he is specifically."

    "Then what is he doing in my camp?!"

    "Erm... Because, madam, this one is very special indeed. Very special."

    "Oh, really? And why would that be? Because from my angle he looks just like any other bender. And we don't need the average. We need the extraordinary."

    "Ah, but looks can be deceiving, yes? I found this one in the City Hall riot. Your work, I presume? Wonderful job provoking those dirt people. He was fighting with police using airbending."

    Shaw scoffed. "Airbending might been special once, Yshma. Now the flying scum are about as common as ants."

    Looking significantly more panicked, the old man hurriedly continued. "But that's hardly all, madam! I know not to lure any simple prey to you, of course! Old Yshma is far better than that!" Yshma nervously chuckled. "No. I saw him earthbend."

    "Don't toy with me, old man, you just said-"

    "I saw him earthbend and airbend." There were a few shocked gasps, and a new light was visible in Shaw's eyes, though she desperately tried to mask it by letting out a cackle.

    "Let me get this straight. You're suggesting that this pitiful mound of flesh is the Avatar?" she managed to force out between laughs. Abruptly standing straight, she said "Okay, I'll buy it." She knelt back down in front of Shen and slapped him with her gauntleted hand. "Hey, brat! Wake up. Yshma here is saying you can bend multiple elements. Probably is going to ask for a high price. Should I bite?" Shen was silent. Another, more forceful, slap only elicited a groan. "Oh, I see. You're a little banged up, aren't you?" She gently patted Shen's bad leg, sending another wave of pain through his body. "Ha! Hey, Rin! Here's your chance to test out that healer of yours. Take him. And make it quick! We leave tomorrow, wounded or no wounded." Rin grabbed Shen by the arm and dragged him over the waterbender, tying him around the adjacent leg of the mecha tank. "Alright. Just because I'm in a particularly good mood today, I'll take this one off of your hands. How much?"

    Yshma, sensing success and ever the frugal businessman, said "Considering the value of the cargo and the damages sustained, minus my Equalist discount, I'd say... 10,000." His eyes were glowing with greed, at the potential to be found in his new customers. Shaw slowly nodded.

    "Seems reasonable. Considering we have yet to see whether or not he's the Avatar, the fact that these 'damages' can easily be repaired by literally anyone in this entire city, and that 10,000 yuans is a ludicrous price on its own, let alone with this supposed 'discount' of yours, I'll have to say no."

    The light was fading. "5,000."

    "Hmm. I'm not so sure. He does look a little banged up. Maybe not worth my time after all." She flexed her gloved left hand, and a strange blue light started glowing.

    "1,000! My final offer! Please!" Yshma dropped to his knees in front of her, but all Shaw gave him was a look of disgust while she clamped her sparking hand on his head. What happened next Shen saw through half-closed eyes, and knew should never have been done to anything living. Yshma's body convulsed violently, his eyes rolled back in his head, and blood trickled out of his nostril. When the hand was removed, his body collapsed, jerking for a few seconds more before finally going limp. Shaw spat on the corpse.

    "You call yourself an Equalist and you dare try and charge your own kind for one of them? Please. You're worth less than him." Shen was speechless (admittedly his lungs hurt too much to speak). He had read about death. Had heard of it. He had even attended the funeral of a monk back on the island. But here... The glove likely was powered by the orb on the back of the hand, with two wires running through it. When it came in contact with something solid while active, it completed the circuit. The pain the man experienced must have been immense. His very brain had likely been fried, which may explain the blood. Two other Equalists dragged the body to a nearby pool of water and tossed it in. It didn't go too deep, but it sank enough to be out of sight. But the image was burned into Shen's mind. Shaw let out another cackle, probably at the look on Shen's face. How could anyone do this so casually, be so nonchalant about such brutality and cruelty?

    "What? Getting a little squeamish mister Avatar?" She landed a kick to his ribs, blurring his vision. "Bah! This kid's no Avatar. Just another airbending runt. But hey!" She knelt down in front of him, snapping her fingers in front of his glazing eyes. "Guess what, runt? We're killing you anyways." She slapped him for good measure, stood up, and walked away, her laughter echoing in the emptiness of the clearing. The last two blows were the last things needed for Shen to black out. As his vision slowly narrowed and the shadows crept into his mind, the last thing Shen saw was a young woman in water tribe clothing standing on the opposite end of the clearing, staring intently at him as Shen fell into darkness.
     
  6. Consciousness returned slowly to the young waterbender, and when he finally came to he quickly realized he had been taken to a new location. Looking around he saw that he was now in the heart of an Equalist camp, and judging from appearances they all were still in the spirit wilds. He strained against the tight ropes around his arms and chest that bound him to the leg of a mecha tank, but they refused to give even the slightest bit. After a few moments he ceased struggling and instead decided to try and observe his captors and learn as much as he could about them before they realized he was awake.

    There were more than a dozen of the Equalists visible from where he was tied up, most of them huddled around a large fire at the center of the campsite. None of them seemed particularly watchful or alert, and some had even removed their masks. Others were busy eating, drinking, or talking among themselves. The whole scene was rather tranquil and innocuous, but the waterbender knew they must be planning something sinister. Why else would they be gathering mecha tanks and abducting benders? Whatever it was, he knew it did not bode well for Republic City, and more pressingly for him if he did not find some way to escape.

    His attention was suddenly diverted to a commotion that was unfolding on the other side of the camp. An elderly man had arrived with a teenage boy, the latter of which appeared to be injured. Two of the Equalists approached the pair, one of whom had removed their mask, revealing herself as a woman. After she spoke with the older man for a few minutes, a series of whispers rippled through the camp, eventually reaching the young waterbender.

    "The Avatar?"

    "Really? How?"

    "He saw the kid airbending AND earthbending."

    By now the entire camp was roused by a commotion between the woman and the elderly man. The waterbender could not fully see what was unfolding, but at the end the man slumped to the ground dead and one of the Equalists brought the supposed Avatar over to the mecha tank. He was tied to the opposite leg and a few seconds later the female Equalist leader walked over. The waterbender averted his gaze and hoped she would not notice him. If the cold manner in which she had executed the man who had delivered the Avatar was any indication, it would not take much to end up on the wrong side of her perverted sense of justice. She cruelly taunted the young Avatar before knocking him out with a slap to the face and walking away.

    The waterbender barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief before another Equalist approached. "Hey, waterbender! We've got some wounded that need healing." The Equalist removed a knife from his belt and used it to sever the ropes binding the waterbender. "You can start with this kid here. I suggest you get to it if you know what's good for you." He pointed the knife at the waterbender's face threateningly before turning to leave.

    The young waterbender rubbed his arms where they had been bound by the ropes and glared at the Equalist as he walked away. Turning his attention to the unconscious bender next to him, a frown crossed his face as he surveyed the boy's injuries. He was pretty beaten up, suggesting he had suffered some kind of misfortune before he had arrived to the camp. A fresh bruise was already spreading over the side of his face where he had been slapped, but beyond that it was hard to tell just how extensive his injuries were. They would be difficult for even the most talented healer to treat, and unfortunately the waterbender knew nothing about healing.

    Still, his life and this young man's were in danger. If the Equalists found out he wasn't a healer, they most likely would make short work of both of them. For now he would do his best to make it appear that he knew what he was doing and hope none of them noticed. Withdrawing a small amount of water from the skin strapped to his side, he gently laid it over the bruise on the teenage boy's cheek. He slowly moved the cool water across his face and forehead, praying it might somehow revive the young Avatar.
     
  7. Dreams were dangerous things. They could show the past, the future, and things that may not even come to pass. Dreams can drive a man mad. But by this point, Shen was already half-mad. He was lying face-first in the murky waters of a bog. A thick fog covered the sun and obscured everything within five feet. Sitting up, Shen let loose a blast of wind, slicing through the fog. But just as soon as he cut a path, the fog stitched itself back together. He tried again, and this time a puff of fog blasted back into his face. What the...?

    "Force gets you nowhere. Not here."
    Shen spun around, searching in vain for the source of the voice. He felt something slither past his ankle. "Never here." A tentacle of some sort gripped his ankle, hefting him up into the air, and then back down into the shallow water. He desperately tried to blast the attacker with a fireball, but could see nothing in the sentient fog besides a vague shade that seemed to move from side to side like a ghost. The tentacle threw Shen across the bog, where he crashed into the riverbank. Dazed, he searched for his attacker.

    "You do not belong here, Shen. Not yet." He struggled to sit up in search of the voice, but found that he couldn't move; The mud had begun creeping up his body, incapacitating his legs. Suddenly, a woman, Water Tribe by her clothing, appeared above him. She seemed familiar, yet Shen couldn't place her face.

    "Soon though. You will belong here soon." The mud began to cover his face. The last thing he felt was a cold numbness on his cheek.

    ***
    His body was too tired to wake quickly. Shen's eyes were barely strong enough to stay open. He felt water covering one side of his face, and for a few brief seconds felt blissful. Then his mind remembered the pain. Groaning, he noticed the waterbender next to him, and the Equalists in front of him. Then his memories returned, like a flood. "I have to... Get back. Mako needs me." He tried to stand, but fell to his knees before he took a step. Looking to the waterbender, he asked "Who are you?"
     
  8. The waterbender watched as the teenage boy slowly regained consciousness, his glazed eyes gradually opening before a look of recognition returned to them. He muttered something about being needed by someone and tried to stand, only to fall to the ground once more.

    The waterbender moved to provide support to the boy, bracing the still weak teenager with one of his arms. "You'll want to take it easy for now. I don't think you're in any condition to be going anywhere."

    "My name... is Manitok." he replied in answer to the boy's question. "I hear tell you're the Avatar. Is that so?"

    Glancing around the camp, his brow furrowed as he turned back and whispered to the young man "I got captured by these Equalists and brought here because they think I'm a healer. I have a feeling things will go south quick for both of us when they find out I'm not. We need to escape somehow."

    His eyes roaming over his fellow prisoner's injuries, Manitok knew they stood little chance of fighting their way out of the camp. Their only chance now would be to sneak out when the Equalists were distracted. But he knew the camp had to be guarded, and it was only a matter of time before someone came to check on his progress with healing the Avatar. They would have to make the best of their temporary freedom to move around the camp.

    Lifting the Avatar to a standing position once more, he gently began helping him to walk forward. "Come on. I'll take you to the other wounded."